Category Archives: General

Special Issue! Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, and Function: The History of Altering Behavior, Thought, and Function Through Neurosurgery

AHP readers may be interested in a recent special issue from Neurosurgical Focus on “Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, and Function: The History of Altering Behavior, Thought, and Function Through Neurosurgery.” Full titles, authors, and abstract follow below.

“Introduction. Neurosurgery, psychiatry, and function: the history of altering behavior, thought, and function through neurosurgery,” by Mark C. Preul, MD, T. Forcht Dagi, MD, Charles J. Prestigiacomo, MD, and Chris A. Sloffer, MD, MBA. No abstract.

“Sanger Brown and Edward Schäfer before Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy: their observations on bilateral temporal lobe ablations,” by Prasad S. S. V. Vannemreddy, MD, and James L. Stone, MD. Abstract:

Fifty years before a report on the complete bitemporal lobectomy syndrome in primates, known as the Klüver-Bucy syndrome, was published, 2 talented investigators working at the University College in London, England—neurologist Sanger Brown and physiologist Edward Schäfer—also made this discovery. The title of their work was “An investigation into the functions of the occipital and temporal lobes of the monkey’s brain,” and it involved excisional brain surgery in 12 monkeys. They were particularly interested in the then-disputed primary cortical locations relating to vision and hearing. However, following extensive bilateral temporal lobe excisions in 2 monkeys, they noted peculiar behavior including apparent loss of memory and intelligence resembling “idiocy.” These investigators recognized most of the behavioral findings that later came to be known as the Klüver-Bucy syndrome. However, they were working within the late-19th-century framework of cerebral cortical localizations of basic motor and sensory functions.

Details of the Brown and Schäfer study and a glimpse of the neurological thinking of that period is presented. In the decades following the pivotal work of Klüver and Bucy in the late 1930s, in which they used a more advanced neurosurgical technique, tools of behavioral observations, and analysis of brain sections after euthanasia, investigators have elaborated the full components of the clinical syndrome and the extent of their resections.

Other neuroscientists sought to isolate and determine the specific temporal neocortical, medial temporal, and deep limbic structures responsible for various visual and complex behavioral deficits. No doubt, Klüver and Bucy’s contribution led to a great expansion in attention given to the limbic system’s role in action, perception, emotion, and affect—a tide that continues to the present time.

“Editorial. The Klüver-Bucy syndrome and the golden age of localization,” by Chris A. Sloffer, MD, MBA. No abstract. Continue reading Special Issue! Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, and Function: The History of Altering Behavior, Thought, and Function Through Neurosurgery

Ezra Klein on the Genetics of IQ

Ezra Klein, founder of the “explainer” media company Vox, has written a long piece arguing that, given the long-fraught character of race relations in American society, it is nearly impossible to fairly interpret studies that purport to show that racial differences in IQ are genetic in origin. Klein’s article frames the topic in the context a recent podcast in which “new atheist” blogger Sam Harris defended Charles Murray against his many highly vocal critics. (Murray is co-author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, in which he endorsed the claim that persistent racial gaps in IQ are the result of genetic differences.)

Although Klein’s article begins there (and Harris has responded with vociferous denials, claims of defamation, and the puzzling release of an old e-mail exchange with Klein), the article soon shifts focus to the more general question of whether anyone can make sense of racial claims of this sort without first coming to terms with the long, sordid history of racial prejudice in the US.

Klein summarizes his view thus:

Research shows measurable consequences on IQ and a host of other outcomes from the kind of violence and discrimination America inflicted for centuries against African Americans. In a vicious cycle, the consequences of that violence have pushed forward the underlying attitudes that allow discriminatory policies to flourish and justify the racially unequal world we’ve built.

Although Harris advances the belief that racialist views like Murray’s are “forbidden” in today’s culture of “political correctness,” Klein notes that there is nothing new in such views; they have been openly held in American society literally for centuries, and are, indeed, the foundation upon which many American institutions were founded.

Klein also considers seriously the view of IQ researcher James Flynn (of the ”Flynn Effect”), who has explained the marked rise in average IQs over the past century in terms of the increasing cognitive demands of the modern technological world that we have created. However, Klein continues,

Over hundreds of years, white Americans have oppressed black Americans — enslaved them, physically terrorized them, ripped their families apart, taken their wealth from them, denied their children decent educations, refused to let them buy homes in neighborhoods with good schools, locked them out of the most cognitively demanding and financially rewarding jobs, deprived them of the professional and social networks that power advancement.

Among the many, many awful effects this has had is to deny black Americans the full cognitive advantages of navigating the modern economy, of wearing their scientific spectacles. For this reason, Flynn argues that “the black/white IQ gap is probably environmental in origin.”

Harris and Murray do not take this scenario seriously, according to Klein, nor do they consider its relevance to claims of genetic differences. Instead, Harris and Murray shift the argument to one in which white advocates of the genetic theory of racial inferiority are the real victims, attacked for “daring” to suggest what has, in fact, been a central trope throughout much of American history.

Klein and Harris have apparently agreed to appear together on one or the other of their popular podcasts. It might well prove to be a tense encounter.

Special Issue: Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies

The European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling has just released a special issue: “Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies.” Guest edited by Sonu Shamdasani, the issue includes the following articles:

“Introduction to special issue ‘Towards transcultural histories of psychotherapies’,” Del Loewenthal (Editor-in-Chief). No abstract.

Editorial: “Towards transcultural histories of psychotherapies,” by Sonu Shamdasani (Guest Editor). No abstract.

“Suggestion, persuasion and work: Psychotherapies in communist Europe,” by Sarah Marks. Abstract:

This article traces what recent research and primary sources tell us about psychotherapy in Communist Europe, and how it survived both underground and above the surface. In particular, I will elaborate on the psychotherapeutic techniques that were popular across the different countries and language cultures of the Soviet sphere, with a particular focus upon the Cold War period. This article examines the literature on the mixed fortunes of psychoanalysis and group therapies in the region. More specifically, it focuses upon the therapeutic modalities such as work therapy, suggestion and rational therapy, which gained particular popularity in the Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The latter two approaches had striking similarities with parallel developments in behavioural and cognitive therapies in the West. In part, this was because clinicians on both sides of the ‘iron curtain’ drew upon shared European traditions from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nevertheless, this article argues that in the Soviet sphere, those promoting these approaches appropriated socialist thought as a source of inspiration and justification, or at the very least, as a convenient political shield.

“Manualizing psychotherapy: Aaron T. Beck and the origins of Cognitive Therapy of Depression,” by Rachael I. Rosner. Abstract:

This paper examines the origins of psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck’s 1979 Cognitive Therapy of Depression (CTOD). CTOD was the first psychotherapy manual designed to be used in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Making psychotherapy amenable to the RCT design had been a ‘holy grail’ for leading American psychotherapy researchers since the late 1960s. Beck’s CTOD – which standardized his treatment so it could be compared with drug treatments in a clinical trial – delivered that holy grail, and ushered in the manualized treatment revolution. Manuals are now a sine qua non in psychotherapy research. In this paper, I explore some of the personal, political, and economic variables that made the idea of a manual irresistible to Beck and to those who first championed him.

“Modernist Pills against Brazilian Alienism (1920–1945),” by Cristiana Facchinetti. Abstract: Continue reading Special Issue: Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies

Forthcoming in JHBS: Japanese-American Imprisonment and Social Science Experiments & Psychoanalysis and the Catholic Church

Forthcoming in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences are two articles of interest to AHP readers. Titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“Japanese-American confinement and scientific democracy: Colonialism, social engineering, and government administration,” by Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt and Leandro Daniel Benmergui. Abstract:

During World War II, the U.S. Indian Service conducted social science experiments regarding governance among Japanese Americans imprisoned at the Poston, Arizona, camp. Researchers used an array of techniques culled from anthropological culture and personality studies, psychiatry, psychology, medicine, and public opinion research to probe how the personality traits of the confined Japanese?Americans and camp leaders affected the social interactions within each group and between them. The research drew on prior studies of Indian personality in the US Southwest, Mexico’s Native policies, and indirect colonial rule. Researchers asked how democracy functioned in contexts marked by hierarchy and difference. Their goal was to guide future policies toward US “minorities“ and foreign races in post?war occupied territories. We show how researchers deployed ideas about race, cultural, and difference across a variety of cases to create a universal, predictive social science, which they combined with a prewar romanticism and cultural relativism. These researchers made ethnic, racial, and cultural difference compatible with predictive laws of science based on notions of fundamental human similarities.

““A disease of our time”: The Catholic Church’s condemnation and absolution of psychoanalysis (1924–1975),” by Renato Foschi Marco Innamorati Ruggero Taradel. Abstract:

The present paper is focused on the evolution of the position of the Catholic Church toward psychoanalysis. Even before Freud’s The Future of an Illusion (1927), psychoanalysis was criticized by Catholic theologians. Psychoanalysis was viewed with either contempt or with indifference, but nonpsychoanalytic psychotherapy was accepted, especially for pastoral use. Freudian theory remained for most Catholics a delicate and dangerous subject for a long time. From the center to the periphery of the Vatican, Catholic positions against psychoanalysis have varied in the way that theological stances have varied. In the middle decades of the twentieth century, some Catholics changed their attitudes and even practiced psychoanalysis, challenging the interdict of the Holy Office, which prohibited psychoanalytic practice until 1961. During the Cold War, psychoanalysis progressively became more and more relevant within Catholic culture for two main reasons: changes in psychoanalytic doctrine (which began to stress sexuality to a lesser degree) and the increasing number of Catholic psychoanalysts, even among priests. Between the 1960s and the 1970s, psychoanalysis was eventually accepted and became the main topic of a famous speech by Pope Paul VI. This paper illustrates how this acceptance was a sort of unofficial endorsement of a movement that had already won acceptance within the Church. The situation was fostered by people like Maryse Choisy or Leonardo Ancona, who had advocated within the Church for a sui generis use of psychoanalysis (e.g., proposing a desexualized version of Freudian theories), despite warnings and prohibitions from the hierarchies of the Church.

A History of Panic Over Entertainment Technology

New in the online magazine Behavioral Scientist, as part of a special issue on “Connected State of Mind,” is a piece on  “A History of Panic Over Entertainment Technology” by Christopher J. Ferguson and Cathy Faye. As they note,

Since the earliest twentieth century, psychologists have been concerned with how technology affects health and well-being. In the 1930s, they weighed the effects of listening to the radio. In the 1960s, they turned their attention to television. And in more recent years, they have expanded their research to video games and cell phone use. Psychologists have always been vocal on questions about the long-term effects of entertainment technology.

However, both the past and present debates suggest that answering questions about the pros and cons of entertainment technology is complicated. Research findings have been mixed and therefore not easily translatable into policy statements, news headlines, or advice for parents. This was true in 1960 and it is true today.

Take, for example, debates regarding televised violence and childhood aggression. Between 1950 and 1970, televisions became a standard presence in American homes. However, not everyone believed they were a welcome addition. Parents, educators, and politicians questioned what they saw as excess violence and sexuality on TV.

In 1969, the Surgeon General’s Office deemed TV violence a public health problem and called on psychologists to provide definitive evidence on its effects. The million-dollar project was modeled on the well-known Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on health-related risks of tobacco use. It was hoped that evidence from the social and behavioral sciences could similarly close the case on television violence and aggressive behavior.

Read the full piece here.

New HHS: Psychoanalytic Social Psychology, Burnout, & More

The December 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Full details below.

“Psychoanalytic sociology and the traumas of history: Alexander Mitscherlich between the disciplines,” by Matt ffytche. Abstract:

This article examines the way aspects of recent history were excluded in key studies emerging from psychoanalytic social psychology of the mid-20th century. It draws on work by Erikson, Marcuse and Fromm, but focuses in particular on Alexander Mitscherlich. Mitscherlich, a social psychologist associated with the later Frankfurt School, was also the most important psychoanalytic figure in postwar Germany. This makes his work significant for tracing ways in which historical experience of the war and Nazism was filtered out of psychosocial narratives in this period, in favour of more structural analyses of the dynamics of social authority. Mitscherlich’s 1967 work The Inability to Mourn, co-authored with Margarete Mitscherlich, is often cited as the point at which the ‘missing’ historical experience flooded back into psychoanalytic accounts of society. I argue that this landmark publication does not hail the shift towards the psychoanalysis of historical experience with which it is often associated. These more sociological writers of the mid-century were writing before the impact of several trends occurring in the 1980s–90s which decisively shifted psychoanalytic attention away from the investigation of social authority and towards a focus on historical trauma. Ultimately this is also a narrative about the transformations which occur when psychoanalysis moves across disciplines.

“The making of burnout: From social change to self-awareness in the postwar United States, 1970–82,” by Matthew J. Hoffarth. Abstract: Continue reading New HHS: Psychoanalytic Social Psychology, Burnout, & More

Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America

AHP readers may be interested in Jamie L. Pietruska’s recently published book Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America. As noted on the publisher’s site,

In the decades after the Civil War, the world experienced monumental changes in industry, trade, and governance. As Americans faced this uncertain future, public debate sprang up over the accuracy and value of predictions, asking whether it was possible to look into the future with any degree of certainty. In Looking Forward, Jamie L. Pietruska uncovers a culture of prediction in the modern era, where forecasts became commonplace as crop forecasters, “weather prophets,” business forecasters, utopian novelists, and fortune-tellers produced and sold their visions of the future. Private and government forecasters competed for authority—as well as for an audience—and a single prediction could make or break a forecaster’s reputation.

Pietruska argues that this late nineteenth-century quest for future certainty had an especially ironic consequence: it led Americans to accept uncertainty as an inescapable part of both forecasting and twentieth-century economic and cultural life. Drawing together histories of science, technology, capitalism, environment, and culture, Looking Forward explores how forecasts functioned as new forms of knowledge and risk management tools that sometimes mitigated, but at other times exacerbated, the very uncertainties they were designed to conquer. Ultimately Pietruska shows how Americans came to understand the future itself as predictable, yet still uncertain.

 

Techniques for Nothingness: Debate over the Comparability of Hypnosis and Zen in Early-Twentieth-Century Japan

AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming article in History of Science, now available online, on the intersection of Buddhism and psychology in Japan.

“Techniques for nothingness: Debate over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen in early-twentieth-century Japan,” by Yu-chuan Wu. Abstract:

This paper explores a debate that took place in Japan in the early twentieth century over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen. The debate was among the first exchanges between psychology and Buddhism in Japan, and it cast doubt on previous assumptions that a clear boundary existed between the two fields. In the debate, we find that contemporaries readily incorporated ideas from psychology and Buddhism to reconstruct the experiences and concepts of hypnosis and Buddhist nothingness. The resulting new theories and techniques of nothingness were fruits of a fairly fluid boundary between the two fields. The debate, moreover, reveals that psychology tried to address the challenges and possibilities posed by religious introspective meditation and intuitive experiences in a positive way. In the end, however, psychology no longer regarded them as viable experimental or psychotherapeutic tools but merely as particular subjective experiences to be investigated and explained.

 

Erik Linstrum: The Empire Dreamt Back

A recent piece from historian Erik Linstrum over on Aeon may be of interest to AHP readers. In “The Empire Dreamt Back” Linstrum explores the role of psychoanalysis in British colonial rule. The piece begins:

Every state needs to know about the people it rules. Censuses, property surveys and tax records are familiar and tangible expressions of the state’s need to maintain power by accumulating knowledge. This is not just a matter of tedious bureaucratic record-keeping: especially when confronted with unfamiliar problems, states often turn to cutting-edge technologies and forms of expertise to make sense of the populations under their authority. In the early 20th-century Age of Empire, when European colonies stretched across the world, psychoanalysis was the novel technique of the moment. In an attempt to better understand their colonial subjects in those years, officials in the British empire undertook a curious and little-known research project: to collect dreams from the people of South Asia, Africa and the Pacific. The results were not what they expected.

Read the full article here.

New Medical History: Psychiatry in the Atomic Age, Transvestism in Finland, Therapy in Russian Defectology

The January 2018 issue of Medical History is now available and includes several articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Healing a Sick World: Psychiatric Medicine and the Atomic Age,” by Ran Zwigenberg. Abstract:

The onset of nuclear warfare in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had far-reaching implications for the world of medicine. The study of the A-bomb and its implications led to the launching of new fields and avenues of research, most notably in genetics and radiation studies. Far less understood and under-studied was the impact of nuclear research on psychiatric medicine. Psychological research, however, was a major focus of post-war military and civilian research into the bomb. This research and the perceived revolutionary impact of atomic energy and warfare on society, this paper argues, played an important role in the global development of post-war psychiatry. Focusing on psychiatrists in North America, Japan and the United Nations, this paper examines the reaction of the profession to the nuclear age from the early post-war period to the mid 1960s. The way psychiatric medicine related to atomic issues, I argue, shifted significantly between the immediate post-war period and the 1960s. While the early post-war psychiatrists sought to help society deal with and adjust to the new nuclear reality, later psychiatrists moved towards a more radical position that sought to resist the establishment’s efforts to normalise the bomb and nuclear energy. This shift had important consequences for research into the psychological trauma suffered by victims of nuclear warfare, which, ultimately, together with other research into the impact of war and systematic violence, led to our current understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Boyish Mannerisms and Womanly Coquetry: Patients with the Diagnosis of Transvestitismus in the Helsinki Psychiatric Clinic in Finland, 1954–68,” by Katariina Parhi. Abstract:

This article examines the case files of patients diagnosed with Transvestitismus [transvestism] in the Psychiatric Clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital in the years 1954–68. These individuals did not only want to cross-dress, but also had a strong feeling of being of a different sex from their assigned one. The scientific concept of transsexuality had begun to take form, and this knowledge reached Finland in phases. The case files of the transvestism patients show that they were highly aware of their condition and were very capable of describing it, even if they had no medical name for it. Psychiatrists were willing to engage in dialogue with the patients, and did not treat them as passive objects of study. Although some patients felt that they had been helped, many left the institution as frustrated, angered or desperate as before. They had sought medical help in the hope of having their bodies altered to correspond to their identity, but the Clinic psychiatrists insisted on seeing the problem in psychiatric terms and did not recommend surgical or hormonal treatments in most cases. This attitude would gradually change over the course of the 1970s and 1980s.

“Lechebnaia pedagogika: The Concept and Practice of Therapy in Russian Defectology, c. 1880–1936,” by Andy Byford. Abstract:

Therapy is not simply a domain or form of medical practice, but also a metaphor for and a performance of medicine, of its functions and status, of its distinctive mode of action upon the world. This article examines medical treatment or therapy (in Russian lechenie), as concept and practice, in what came to be known in Russia as defectology (defektologiia) – the discipline and occupation concerned with the study and care of children with developmental pathologies, disabilities and special needs. Defectology formed an impure, occupationally ambiguous, therapeutic field, which emerged between different types of expertise in the niche populated by children considered ‘difficult to cure’, ‘difficult to teach’, and ‘difficult to discipline’. The article follows the multiple genealogy of defectological therapeutics in the medical, pedagogical and juridical domains, across the late tsarist and early Soviet eras. It argues that the distinctiveness of defectological therapeutics emerged from the tensions between its biomedical, sociopedagogical and moral-juridical framings, resulting in ambiguous hybrid forms, in which medical treatment strategically interlaced with education or upbringing, on the one hand, and moral correction, on the other.