protest

Neuroscience, Pseudoscience and The Vast Gulf Between

A guest blog and opinion piece at the top of the search pops on the subject of psychiatry at Scientific America is entitled Why Psychiatry Needs Neuroscience. The author is one Daniel Barron. The claim was made in this piece that there was a war between the two fields to which Neuroskeptic blogger at Discovery Magazine replied with a post of his own, The Fake “War Between Neuroscience and Psychiatry”.

Daniel Barron writes:

That the relevance of neuroscience to psychiatry is still questioned is blatantly outlandish: what organ do psychiatrists treat if not the brain? And what framework could possibly be more relevant than neuroscience to understanding brain dysfunction?

Hold on a minute, “what organ do psychiatrists treat if not the brain?” Uh, I’ve got another one for you, what organ do neurologists treat if not the brain?  I suggest we take it to Google and ask for a definition of psychiatry and  then a definition neurology. If we do so, we get this:

Psychiatry: the study and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbance, and abnormal behavior.

Neurology: the branch of medicine or biology that deals with the anatomy, functions, and organic disorders of nerves and the nervous system.

It is not brains that psychiatrists study, in other words, it is misbehavior. Whether the misbehavior of people can be linked to misbehaving brains, and by extension, nervous systems (misfiring neurons) is another thing altogether.

Psychiatrists, in other words, deal with mental disorders while neurologists deal with brain injury and disease.  Prove you’ve got a bona fide disease affecting the brain, and, as happened with syphilis early in the twentieth century, it is no longer on the turf of psychiatrists, it is then in the territory of neurologists. This is a divide that can’t be breached by wishful thinking.

With the new emphasis on brain research, everything associated with neuro is trendy. Okay, today there are people calling themselves neuropsychiatrists, and that I would characterize as a mystification, pure and simple. Nobody, after all, who has not gotten into trouble with the long arm of the law, is likely to be called a “psycho-neurologist” anymore.

The question becomes, when it comes to behavior, over which people certainly have some measure of control, as conscious decision making must come into play somewhere along the line, should we be placing all the blame for aberrant behaviors on mechanical actions taking place inside the brain, or do they have more to do with other factors–schooling, parenting, etc.–involving a whole constellation of other things.

Again, back to the case of syphilis. Technically speaking, psychiatrists don’t study and treat the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is brain disease. Neurologists handle that. ADHD, distraction among students, is accounted a mental disorder, a matter for psychiatry.  When it comes down to it, we are no closer to reliably attributing distraction in students to dysfunctional brains than we are to attributing it to dull and uninteresting subjects of study.

Although war is an awful strong word to use, I imagine there is plenty of room for disagreement between these two, seemingly similar, disciplines. The present detente worries me much more than any conflict that might arise between them would. I can’t help but imagine bribery, backhanded deals, and suppression of information keeping those lips that should be speaking sealed in the interim..

Free Tziona Ben Aharon From Northeast Florida State Hospital

MindFreedom International Human Rights Alert

Tziona Ben Aharon was Baker Acted five times by her son, and one of those detentions led to her civil commitment at Northeast Florida State Hospital in Macclenny near Jacksonville. Tziona, a 58 year old Miami resident, has been given a diagnosis of “dementia”. There are affidavits attesting that Tziona has been physically attacked by hospital staff. Tziona is currently malnourished, dehydrated and “asleep” most of the time. On one occasion, her sister, Jaffa Raviv, reports that she was found by hospital staff to be non-responsive, pale, and unconscious. She is under a regimen of six or more drugs, one of which is the powerful neuroleptic Haldol. She is also unable to communicate with the staff at the hospital because she doesn’t speak english, she only speaks Hebrew. There has been evidence of the use of restraints on Tziona by NEFSH, and she is also said to have been subjected to shock treatments.

Recently we staged a protest in support of Tziona in front of Northeast Florida State Hospital. The protest went very well, and was even covered by Channel4 News in Jacksonville. Although this protest went well, it has not lead to Tziona’s release. Neither of Tziona’s sisters, despite a court order, have been allowed by the hospital to visit their sister. Jaffa Raviv is afraid that continued treatment at NEFSH will result in her sister, Tziona’s, death.

Tziona has been put on a feeding tube she cannot swallow or eat on her own, yet the hospital refused to transfer her to VITAS Healthcare, Sunrise FAX: 1-877-848-2702, where she might receive the medical attention that she so desperately needs. The hospital has also refused to transfer her to North Beach Rehabilitation Center FAX: 305-945-8280. Members of her family have also spoken about the possibility of moving her to Israel ASAP.

MindFreedom International has issued a previous alert on Tziona, but her situation at NEFSH has changed little since that alert was issued. We are, therefore, issuing a second human rights alert on behalf of Tziona Ben Aharon. You can help Tziona by calling the following numbers and by asking for Tziona’s immediate release from Northeast Florida State Hospital, and her transfer to the care of her family and, through them, to a real medical facility.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Office Phone: 850-921-8461
Email: http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/

Hayden Mathieson
Florida Mental Health Commissioner
Department of Children and Families
Phone: 850-921-8461
Fax: 850-487-2239
email: hayden_mathieson@dcf.state.fl.us

Disability Rights Florida
800-342-0823 Toll Free
850-488-9071
850-488-8640 Fax

You may also want to call any of the numbers listed from our previous alert.

1. Joseph A. Infantino – Hospital Administrator (904)259-6211 Ext. 1104
2. Alice Oswald – Assistant Administrators Institutional Superintendent
(904)259-6211 Ext. 1107
3. Doug Shine – Head of Social Workers Administration (904)259-6211 Ext. 1505
4. Dr. Colleen Belle – Head of Psychiatry (904)259-6211 Ext. 1751
5. Dr. Garry Dopson – Head of Medical – Critical Services (904)259-6211 Ext. 1618
6. Dr. Stella Rodriguez Medical Services Tziona’s Doctor Building 3C
(904)259-6211 Ext. 1534
7. Bob Bark – Nurse Psychiatry (904)259-6211 Ext. 1985
8. Brian William Hurd Tziona’s Attorney 1(321)759-6719 CELL
1(321)453-5007 Office
9. Chaplain – Rabbi Mendy Levy (305)342-6665

For additional information call:

10. Yaffa Raviv (305)773-0717