Why is my awareness here, while yours is over there? Why is the universe split in two for each of us, into a subject and an infinity of objects? How is each of us our own center of experience, receiving information about the rest of the world out there? Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A gnat? A bacterium?
These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which asks, essentially: What is the relationship between mind and matter? It’s resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years.
Chalmers thought the mind-body problem should be called “hard” in comparison to what, with tongue in cheek, he called the “easy” problems of neuroscience: How do neurons and the brain work at the physical level? Of course they’re not actually easy at all. But his point was that they’re relatively easy compared to the truly difficult problem of explaining how consciousness relates to matter.
Over the last decade, my colleague, University of California, Santa Barbara psychology professor Jonathan Schooler and I have developed what we call a “resonance theory of consciousness.” We suggest that resonance – another word for synchronized vibrations – is at the heart of not only human consciousness but also animal consciousness and of physical reality more generally. It sounds like something the hippies might have dreamed up – it’s all vibrations, man! – but stick with me.
All about the vibrations
All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating. Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating, at various frequencies. Resonance is a type of motion, characterized by oscillation between two states. And ultimately all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields. As such, at every scale, all of nature vibrates.
Something interesting happens when different vibrating things come together: They will often start, after a little while, to vibrate together at the same frequency. They “sync up,” sometimes in ways that can seem mysterious. This is described as the phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization.
When fireflies of certain species come together in large gatherings, they start flashing in sync, in ways that can still seem a little mystifying.
Lasers are produced when photons of the same power and frequency sync up.
The moon’s rotation is exactly synced with its orbit around the Earth such that we always see the same face.
Examining resonance leads to potentially deep insights about the nature of consciousness and about the universe more generally.
Sync inside your skull
Neuroscientists have identified sync in their research, too. Large-scale neuron firing occurs in human brains at measurable frequencies, with mammalian consciousness thought to be commonly associated with various kinds of neuronal sync.
Fries focuses on gamma, beta and theta waves. These labels refer to the speed of electrical oscillations in the brain, measured by electrodes placed on the outside of the skull. Groups of neurons produce these oscillations as they use electrochemical impulses to communicate with each other. It’s the speed and voltage of these signals that, when averaged, produce EEG waves that can be measured at signature cycles per second.
Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness, according to Fries. But the exact relationship between electrical brain waves and consciousness is still very much up for debate.
Fries calls his concept “communication through coherence.” For him, it’s all about neuronal synchronization. Synchronization, in terms of shared electrical oscillation rates, allows for smooth communication between neurons and groups of neurons. Without this kind of synchronized coherence, inputs arrive at random phases of the neuron excitability cycle and are ineffective, or at least much less effective, in communication.
A resonance theory of consciousness
Our resonance theory builds upon the work of Fries and many others, with a broader approach that can help to explain not only human and mammalian consciousness, but also consciousness more broadly.
Based on the observed behavior of the entities that surround us, from electrons to atoms to molecules, to bacteria to mice, bats, rats, and on, we suggest that all things may be viewed as at least a little conscious. This sounds strange at first blush, but “panpsychism” – the view that all matter has some associated consciousness – is an increasingly accepted position with respect to the nature of consciousness.
The panpsychist argues that consciousness did not emerge at some point during evolution. Rather, it’s always associated with matter and vice versa – they’re two sides of the same coin. But the large majority of the mind associated with the various types of matter in our universe is extremely rudimentary. An electron or an atom, for example, enjoys just a tiny amount of consciousness. But as matter becomes more interconnected and rich, so does the mind, and vice versa, according to this way of thinking.
Biological organisms can quickly exchange information through various biophysical pathways, both electrical and electrochemical. Non-biological structures can only exchange information internally using heat/thermal pathways – much slower and far less rich in information in comparison. Living things leverage their speedier information flows into larger-scale consciousness than what would occur in similar-size things like boulders or piles of sand, for example. There’s much greater internal connection and thus far more “going on” in biological structures than in a boulder or a pile of sand.
Under our approach, boulders and piles of sand are “mere aggregates,” just collections of highly rudimentary conscious entities at the atomic or molecular level only. That’s in contrast to what happens in biological life forms where the combinations of these micro-conscious entities together create a higher level macro-conscious entity. For us, this combination process is the hallmark of biological life.
The central thesis of our approach is this: the particular linkages that allow for large-scale consciousness – like those humans and other mammals enjoy – result from a shared resonance among many smaller constituents. The speed of the resonant waves that are present is the limiting factor that determines the size of each conscious entity in each moment.
As a particular shared resonance expands to more and more constituents, the new conscious entity that results from this resonance and combination grows larger and more complex. So the shared resonance in a human brain that achieves gamma synchrony, for example, includes a far larger number of neurons and neuronal connections than is the case for beta or theta rhythms alone.
What about larger inter-organism resonance like the cloud of fireflies with their little lights flashing in sync? Researchers think their bioluminescent resonance arises due to internal biological oscillators that automatically result in each firefly syncing up with its neighbors.
Is this group of fireflies enjoying a higher level of group consciousness? Probably not, since we can explain the phenomenon without recourse to any intelligence or consciousness. But in biological structures with the right kind of information pathways and processing power, these tendencies toward self-organization can and often do produce larger-scale conscious entities.
Our resonance theory of consciousness attempts to provide a unified framework that includes neuroscience, as well as more fundamental questions of neurobiology and biophysics, and also the philosophy of mind. It gets to the heart of the differences that matter when it comes to consciousness and the evolution of physical systems.
It is all about vibrations, but it’s also about the type of vibrations and, most importantly, about shared vibrations.
In the U.S., an estimated 17.3 million American adults (7.1% of the adult population), experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017.1 The highest rates are reported among those aged between 18 and 25.2 However, not only is there evidence that depression is vastly overdiagnosed, but there’s also evidence showing it’s routinely mistreated.
With regard to overdiagnosis, one 2013 study3 found only 38.4% of participants with clinician-identified depression actually met the DSM-4 criteria for a major depressive episode, and only 14.3% of seniors 65 and older met the criteria.
As for treatment, the vast majority are prescribed antidepressant drugs, despite the fact there’s virtually no evidence to suggest they provide meaningful help, and plenty of evidence showing the harms are greater than patients are being told.
According to a 2017 study,4 1 in 6 Americans between the ages of 18 and 85 were on psychiatric drugs, most of them antidepressants, and 84.3% reported long-term use (three years or more). Out of 242 million U.S. adults, 12% were found to have filled one or more prescriptions for an antidepressant, specifically, in 2013.
According to data5 presented by a watchdog group, hundreds of thousands of toddlers are also being medicated with powerful psychiatric drugs, raising serious ethical questions, along with questions about the future mental and physical health of these children.
Recent studies are also shedding much needed light on the addictive nature of many antidepressants, and demonstrate that the benefits of these drugs have been overblown while their side effects — including suicidal ideation — and have been downplayed and ignored for decades, placing patients at unnecessary risk.
The Chemical Imbalance Myth
One researcher responsible for raising awareness about these important mental health issues is professor Peter C. Gøtzsche, a Danish physician-researcher and outspoken critic of the drug industry (as his book, “Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare,”6 suggests).
Over the past several years, Gøtzsche has published a number of scientific papers on antidepressants and media articles and a book discussing the findings. In a June 28, 2019 article,7 Gøtzsche addresses “the harmful myth” about chemical imbalances — a debunked hypothesis that continues to drive the use of antidepressants to this day. He writes, in part:8
“Psychiatrists routinely tell their patients that they are ill because they have a chemical imbalance in the brain and they will receive a drug that fixes this …
Last summer, one of my researchers and I collected information about depression from 39 popular websites in 10 countries, and we found that 29 (74%) websites attributed depression to a chemical imbalance or claimed that antidepressants could fix or correct that imbalance …
It has never been possible to show that common mental disorders start with a chemical imbalance in the brain. The studies that have claimed this are all unreliable.9
A difference in dopamine levels, for example, between patients with schizophrenia and healthy people cannot tell us anything about what started the psychosis … [I]f a lion attacks us, we get terribly frightened and produce stress hormones, but this does not prove that it was the stress hormones that made us scared.
People with psychoses have often suffered traumatic experiences in the past, so we should see these traumas as contributing causal factors and not reduce suffering to some biochemical imbalance that, if it exists at all, is more likely to be the result of the psychosis rather than its cause.10
The myth about chemical imbalance is very harmful. It makes people believe there is something seriously wrong with them, and sometimes they are even told that it is hereditary.
The result of this is that patients continue to take harmful drugs, year after year, perhaps even for the entirety of their lives. They fear what would happen if they stopped, particularly when the psychiatrists have told them that their situation is like patients with diabetes needing insulin.”
Real Cause of Depression Is Typically Ignored
According to Gøtzsche, there is no known mental health issue that is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. In many cases, the true cause is unknown, but “very often, it is a response to unhealthy living conditions,” he writes.11
He also cites the book,12 “Anxiety — The Inside Story: How Biological Psychiatry Got It Wrong,” written by Dr. Niall McLaren, in which the author shows that anxiety is a major factor in and trigger of most psychiatric disorders.
“A psychiatrist I respect highly, who only uses psychiatric drugs in rare cases … has said that most people are depressed because they live depressing lives,” Gøtzsche writes.
“No drug can help them live better lives. It has never been shown in placebo-controlled trials that a psychiatric drug can improve people’s lives — e.g., help them return to work, improve their social relationships or performance at school, or prevent crime and delinquency. The drugs worsen people’s lives, at least in the long run.13“
Gøtzsche rightfully points out that antipsychotic drugs create chemical imbalances; they don’t fix them. As a group, they’re also somewhat misnamed, as they do not address psychotic states. Rather, they are tranquilizers, rendering the patient passive. However, calming the patient down does not actually help them heal the underlying trauma that, in many cases, is what triggered the psychosis in the first place.
As noted in one 2012 meta-analysis14 of studies looking at childhood trauma — including sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, neglect, parental death and bullying — and subsequent risk of psychosis:
“There were significant associations between adversity and psychosis across all research designs … Patients with psychosis were 2.72 times more likely to have been exposed to childhood adversity than controls … The estimated population attributable risk was 33% (16%-47%). These findings indicate that childhood adversity is strongly associated with increased risk for psychosis.”
Economy of Influence in Psychiatry
A related article,15 written by investigative journalist Robert Whitaker in 2017, addresses the “economy of influence” driving the use of antidepressant drugs in psychiatric treatment — and the “social injury” that results. As noted by Whitaker, mental disorders were initially categorized according to a disease model in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association.
“We’re all familiar with the second ‘economy of influence’ that has exerted a corrupting influence on psychiatry — pharmaceutical money — but I believe the guild influence is really the bigger problem,” he writes.
Whitaker details the corruption within the APA in his book “Psychiatry Under the Influence,” one facet of which is “the false story told to the public about drugs that fixed chemical imbalances in the brain.” Other forms of corrupt behavior include:
The biased designs of clinical trials to achieve a predetermined result
Spinning results to support preconceived conclusions
Hiding poor long-term outcomes
Expanding diagnostic categories for the purpose of commercial gain
Creating clinical trial guidelines that promote drug use
In his article, Whitaker goes on to dissect a 2017 review16 published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, which Whitaker claims “defends the profession’s current protocols for prescribing antipsychotics, which includes their regular long-term use.”
As Whitaker points out, there’s ample evidence showing antipsychotic drugs worsen outcomes over the long term in those diagnosed with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
The review in question, led by Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, was aimed at answering persistent questions raised by the mounting of such evidence. Alas, their conclusions dismissed concerns that the current drug paradigm might be doing more harm than good.
“In a subsequent press release and a video for a Medscape commentary, Lieberman has touted it as proving that antipsychotics provide a great benefit, psychiatry’s protocols are just fine, and that the critics are ‘nefarious’ individuals intent on doing harm,” Whitaker writes.17
The Scientific Bias of Psychiatric Treatment
Five of the eight researchers listed on the review have financial ties to drug companies, three are speakers for multiple drug companies and all eight are psychiatrists, “and thus there is a ‘guild’ interest present in this review, given that they are investigating whether one of their treatments is harmful over the long-term,” Whitaker notes.18
Not surprisingly, the review ignored studies showing negative effects, including studies showing antipsychotics have a detrimental effect on brain volume. What’s more, while withdrawal studies support the use of antipsychotics as maintenance therapy over the long term, these studies do not address how the drugs affect patients’ long-term health.
“They simply reveal that once a person has stabilized on the medication, going abruptly off the drug is likely to lead to relapse,” Whitaker writes.19 “The focus on long-term outcomes, at least as presented by critics, provides evidence that psychiatry should adopt a selective-use protocol.
If first-episode patients are not immediately put on antipsychotics, there is a significant percentage that will recover, and this ‘spontaneous recovery’ puts them onto a good long-term course. As for patients treated with the medications, the goal would be to minimize long-term use, as there is evidence that antipsychotics, on the whole, worsen long-term outcomes.”
Vast Majority of Psychotic Patients Are Harmed, Not Helped
In his deconstruction of Lieberman’s review, Whitaker details how biased thinking influenced the review’s conclusions. It’s a rather long article, but well worth reading through if you want to understand how a scientific review can be skewed to accord with a preconceived view.
Details I want to highlight, however, include findings relating to the number needed to treat (NNT) and the percentage of patients harmed by the routine use of antipsychotic drugs as a first-line treatment.
As noted by Whitaker, while placebo-controlled studies reveal the effectiveness of a drug compared to an inert substance, they do not effectively reveal the ratio of benefit versus harm among the patient population. NNT refers to the number of patients that have to take the drug in order to get one positive response.
A meta-analysis cited in Lieberman’s review had an NNT of 6, meaning that six patients must take the drug in order for one to benefit from the treatment. The remaining five patients — 83% — are potentially harmed by the treatment. As noted by Whitaker:20
“The point … is this: reviewers seeking to promote their drug treatment as effective will look solely at whether it produces a superior response to placebo. This leads to a one-size-fits-all protocol.
Reviewers that want to assess the benefit-harm effect of the treatment on all patients will look at NNT numbers. In this instance, the NNT calculations argue for selective use of the drugs …”
Antidepressants Are Not Beneficial in the Long Term
While typically not as destructive as antipsychotics, antidepressants also leave a trail of destruction in their wake. A systematic review21 by Gøtzsche published in 2019 found studies assessing harm from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) fail to provide a clear and accurate picture of the harms, and therefore “cannot be used to investigate persistent harms of antidepressants.”
In this review, Gøtzsche and colleagues sought to assess “harms of SSRIs … that persist after end of drug intake.” The primary outcomes included mortality, functional outcomes, quality of life and core psychiatric events. In all, 22 papers on 12 SSRI trials were included. Gøtzsche found several distinct problems with these trials. For starters, only two of the 12 trials had a drop-out rate below 20%.
Gøtzsche and his team also note that “Outcome reporting was less thorough during follow-up than for the intervention period and only two trials maintained the blind during follow-up.” Importantly, though, all of the 22 papers came to the conclusion that “the drugs were not beneficial in the long term.”
Another important finding was that all trials either “reported harms outcomes selectively or did not report any,” and “Only two trials reported on any of our primary outcomes (school attendance and number of heavy drinking days).”
Antidepressants Are More Addictive Than Admitted
In a June 4, 2019, article,22 “The Depression Pill Epidemic,” Gøtzsche writes that antidepressant drugs:
“… do not have relevant effects on depression; they increase the risk of suicide and violence; and they make it more difficult for patients to live normal lives.23 They should therefore be avoided.
We have been fooled by the drug industry, corrupt doctors on industry payroll, and by our drug regulators.24 Surely, many patients and doctors believe the pills are helpful, but they cannot know this, because people tend to become much better with time even if they are not treated.25
This is why we need placebo-controlled trials to find out what the drugs do to people. Unfortunately, virtually all trials are flawed, exaggerate the benefits of the drugs, and underestimate their harms.26“
Addictive Nature of Antidepressants Skews Results
In his article,27 Gøtzsche reviews several of the strategies used in antidepressant drug trials to exaggerate benefits and underestimate the harms. One little-known truth that helps skew study results in the drug’s favor is the fact that antidepressants tend to be far more addictive than officially admitted. He explains how this conveniently hides the skewing of results as follows:28
“Virtually all patients in the trials are already on a drug similar to the one being tested against placebo. Therefore, as the drugs are addictive, some of the patients will get abstinence symptoms … when randomized to placebo …
These abstinence symptoms are very similar to those patients experience when they try to stop benzodiazepines. It is no wonder that new drugs outperform the placebo in patients who have experienced harm as a result of cold turkey effects.
To find out how long patients need to continue taking drugs, so-called maintenance (withdrawal) studies have been carried out, but such studies also are compromised by cold turkey effects. Leading psychiatrists don’t understand this, or they pretend they don’t.
Most interpret the maintenance studies of depression pills to mean that these drugs are very effective at preventing new episodes of depression and that patients should therefore continue taking the drugs for years or even for life.”
Scientific Literature Supports Reality of User Complaints
Over the years, several studies on the dependence and withdrawal reactions associated with SSRIs and other psychiatric drugs have been published, including the following:
• In a 2011 paper29 in the journal Addiction, Gøtzsche and his team looked at the difference between dependence and withdrawal reactions by comparing benzodiazepines and SSRIs. Benzodiazepines are known to cause dependence, while SSRIs are said to not be addictive.
Despite such claims, Gøtzsche’s team found that “discontinuation symptoms were described with similar terms for benzodiazepines and SSRIs and were very similar for 37 of 42 identified symptoms described as withdrawal reactions,” which led them to conclude that:
“Withdrawal reactions to selective serotonin re‐uptake inhibitors appear to be similar to those for benzodiazepines; referring to these reactions as part of a dependence syndrome in the case of benzodiazepines, but not selective serotonin re‐uptake inhibitors, does not seem rational.”
• Two years later, in 2013, Gøtzsche’s team published a paper30 in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, in which they analyzed “communications from drug agencies about benzodiazepine and SSRI withdrawal reactions over time.”
By searching the websites of drug agencies in Europe, the U.S., UK and Denmark, they found that it took years before drug regulators finally acknowledged the reality of benzodiazepine dependence and SSRI withdrawal reactions and began informing prescribers and patients about these risks.
A significant part of the problem, they found, is that drug agencies rely on spontaneous reporting of adverse effects, which “leads to underestimation and delayed information about the problems.”
In conclusion, they state that “Given the experience with the benzodiazepines, we believe the regulatory bodies should have required studies from the manufacturers that could have elucidated the dependence potential of the SSRIs before marketing authorization was granted.”
• A 2019 paper31 in the Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences journal notes “It took almost two decades after the SSRIs entered the market for the first systematic review to be published.” It also points out that reviews claiming withdrawal effects to be mild, brief in duration and rare “was at odds with the sparse but growing evidence base.”
In reality, “What the scientific literature reveals is in close agreement with the thousands of service user testimonies available online in large forums. It suggests that withdrawal reactions are quite common, that they may last from a few weeks to several months or even longer, and that they are often severe.”
Antidepressants Increase Your Risk of Suicide and Violence
In his June 4 article,32 Gøtzsche also stresses the fact that antidepressants can be lethal. In one of his studies,33 published in 2016, he found antidepressants “double the occurrence of events that can lead to suicide and violence in healthy adult volunteers.”
Other research34 has shown they “increase aggression in children and adolescents by a factor of 2 to 3 — an important finding considering the many school shootings where the killers were on depression pills,” Gøtzsche writes.
In middle-aged women with stress urinary incontinence, the selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) duloxetine, which is also used to treat incontinence, has been shown to double the risk of a psychotic episode and increase the risk of violence and suicide four to five times,35 leading the authors to conclude that harms outweighed the benefits.
“I have described the dirty tricks and scientific dishonesty involved when drug companies and leading psychiatrists try convincing us that these drugs protect against suicide and other forms of violence,36“ Gøtzsche writes.37“Even the FDA was forced to give in when it admitted in 2007, at least indirectly, that depression pills can cause suicide and madness at any age.
There is no doubt that the massive use of depression pills is harmful. In all countries where this relationship has been examined, the sharp rise in disability pensions due to psychiatric disorders has coincided with the rise of psychiatric drug usage, and depression pills are those which are used the most by far. This is not what one would expect if the drugs were helpful.”
Drugmaker Lied About Paxil’s Suicide Risk
In 2017, Wendy Dolin was awarded $3 million by a jury in a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil. Dolin’s husband committed suicide six days after taking his first dose of a Paxil generic, and evidence brought forth in the case convincingly showed his suicide was the result of the drug, not emotional stress or mental illness.38
The legal team behind that victory, Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, is also representing other victims of Paxil-induced violence and death. At the time, attorney R. Brent Wisner said:39
“The Dolin verdict sent a clear message to GSK and other drug manufacturers that hiding data and manipulating science will not be tolerated … If you create a drug and know that it poses serious risks, regardless of whether consumers use the brand name or generic version of that drug, you have a duty to warn.”
GSK’s own clinical placebo-controlled trials actually revealed subjects on Paxil had nearly nine times the risk of attempting or committing suicide than the placebo group. To gain drug approval, GSK misrepresented this shocking data, falsely reporting a higher number of suicide attempts in the placebo group and deleting some of the suicide attempts in the drug group.
An internal GSK analysis of its suicide data also showed that “patients taking Paxil were nearly seven times more likely to attempt suicide than those on placebo,” Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman reports, adding:40
“Jurors in the Dolin trial also heard from psychiatrist David Healy, one of the world’s foremost experts on Paxil and drugs in its class … Healy told the jurors that Paxil and drugs like it can create in some people a state of extreme ’emotional turmoil’ and intense inner restlessness known as akathisia …
‘People have described it like a state worse than death. Death will be a blessed relief. I want to jump out of my skin,’ Dr. Healy said. Healthy volunteer studies have found that akathisia can happen even to people with no psychiatric condition who take the drug …
Another Paxil side effect known to increase the risk of suicide is emotional blunting … apathy or emotional indifference … [E]motional blunting, combined with akathisia, can lead to a mental state in which an individual has thoughts of harming themselves or others, but is ‘numbed’ to the consequences of their actions. Drugs in the Paxil class can also cause someone to ‘go psychotic, become delirious,’ Dr. Healy explained.”
Hundreds of Thousands of Toddlers on Psychiatric Drugs
Considering the many serious psychological and physical risks associated with psychiatric drugs, it’s shocking to learn that hundreds of thousands of American toddlers are on them. In 2014, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a mental health watchdog group, highlighted data showing that in 2013:41
274,000 babies aged 1 and younger were given psychiatric drugs — Of these, 249,699 were on anti-anxiety meds like Xanax; 26,406 were on antidepressants such as Prozac or Paxil, 1,422 were on ADHD drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall, and 654 were on antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa
In the toddler category (2- to 3-year-olds), 318,997 were on anti-anxiety drugs, 46,102 were on antidepressants, 10,000 were prescribed ADHD drugs and 3,760 were on antipsychotics
Among children aged 5 and younger, 1,080,168 were on psychiatric drugs
These are shocking figures that challenge logic. How and why are so many children, babies even, on addictive and dangerously mind-altering medications? Considering these statistics are 6 years old, chances are they’re even higher today. Just what will happen to all of these youngsters as they grow up? As mentioned in the article:42
“When it comes to the psychiatric drugs used to treat ADHD, these are referred to as ‘kiddie cocaine’ for a reason. Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderall (amphetamine) and Concerta are all considered by the federal government as Schedule II drugs — the most addictive.
ADHD drugs also have serious side effects such as agitation, mania, aggressive or hostile behavior, seizures, hallucinations, and even sudden death, according to the National Institutes of Health …
As far as antipsychotics, antianxiety drugs and antidepressants, the FDA and international drug regulatory agencies cite side effects including, but not limited to, psychosis, mania, suicidal ideation, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and even sudden death.”
Children Increasingly Prescribed Psych Drugs Off-Label
Making matters even worse, recent research shows the number of children being prescribed medication off-label is also on the rise. An example offered by StudyFinds.org,43 which reported the findings, is “a doctor recommending antidepressant medication for ADHD symptoms.”
The study,44 published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at trends in off-label drug prescriptions made for children under the age of 18 by office-based physicians between 2006 and 2015. Findings revealed:
“Physicians ordered ≥1 off-label systemic drug at 18.5% of visits, usually (74.6%) because of unapproved conditions. Off-label ordering was most common proportionally in neonates (83%) and in absolute terms among adolescents (322 orders out of 1000 visits).
Off-label ordering was associated with female sex, subspecialists, polypharmacy, and chronic conditions. Rates and reasons for off-label orders varied considerably by age.
Relative and absolute rates of off-label orders rose over time. Among common classes, off-label orders for antihistamines and several psychotropics increased over time …
US office-based physicians have ordered systemic drugs off label for children at increasing rates, most often for unapproved conditions, despite recent efforts to increase evidence and drug approvals for children.”
The researchers were taken aback by the findings, and expressed serious concern over this trend. While legal, many of the drugs prescribed off-label have not been properly tested to ensure safety and efficacy for young children and adolescents.
As noted by senior author Daniel Horton, assistant professor of pediatrics and pediatric rheumatologist at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, “We don’t always understand how off-label medications will affect children, who don’t always respond to medications as adults do. They may not respond as desired to these drugs and could experience harmful effects.”
Educate Yourself About the Risks
If you, your child, or another family member is on a psychiatric drug, I urge you to educate yourself about the true risks, and to consider switching to safer alternatives. When it comes to children, I cannot fathom a situation in which a toddler would need a psychiatric drug and I find it shocking that there are so many doctors out there that, based on a subjective evaluation, would deem a psychiatric drug necessary.
Photograph Source: Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons – CC BY 3.0
Oliver Sacks, the “neurological philosopher”, did a “different sort of medicine on behalf of chronic often warehoused and largely abandoned patients.” It combined art and science. Lawrence Weschler, in How Are You, Dr. Sacks?, says Sacks was from “the period before the science and the humanities split apart”.
But they didn’t just “split apart”. They were torn apart. Weschler doesn’t name the ideology responsible.
It didn’t convince everyone. Some saw through it, especially in the global South. Like Sacks, they wanted to know persons. Sacks had the “audacity to imagine that there might in fact be ongoing life persisting deep within those long-extinguished cores.” A nun at Little Sisters in the Bronx said: “Everyone who reads his [clinical] notes sees the patients differently …. Most consultants’ notes are cut and dried, aimed at the problem with no sense of the person …. With him the whole person becomes visible.”
European philosophers separated science and the humanities. They invented the “fact/value” distinction, between what is and what ought to be. They said knowledge of the latter doesn’t exist, or might not exist. Cuban scholar Armando Hart says anyone who cares about global justice in the 21st century should notice the damage done to the world by European philosophy. He meant liberalism. It denied truth – or at least put it in doubt – about humanness.
It made sense for those who defined humanness.
Sacks called himself a “clinical ontologist”. His science was about being, but not in the abstract. He meant the being of people, the “living statues” who were the subject of his masterpiece, Awakenings, later a film and a one-act play. He saw their stillness as active. Being as doing. Sacks responded to “philosophical emergencies”. It was part of his science.
There is an expectation in the North that Philosophy is useless, that it is at best a luxury for elite academics who live in universities and speak in complicated ways, only to each other. But Gramsci said that if you don’t understand the ideas explaining ideas, making them plausible, new ideas are ineffective because they are understood in terms of the old, mitigating their effect.
Weschler presents Sacks (affectionately) as odd without naming the ideology that makes him odd. Yet Sacks’ view was not odd.
Tolstoy knew it. Lenin commented that Tolstoy’s ideas were bourgeois but his writing revolutionary. It’s because artists, unlike philosophers, articulate the human condition. And human emancipation is impossible without knowing the human condition.
Tolstoy’s Pierre Bezukhov (War and Peace) reverses the popular myth of instrumental rationality. Pierre “did not wait, as before, for personal reasons, which he called people’s merits, in order to love them, but love overflowed his heart, and, loving people without reason, he discovered the unquestionable reasons for which it was worth loving them”.
Tolstoy calls it “insanity”. Pierre feels love, and as a result, has reasons. He doesn’t have purpose and from that get reasons. Indeed, he has no purpose. He has feeling, which Tolstoy describes as love. Pierre’s feelings explain what matters to him; it is not what matters to him – purpose – that explains his feelings: of energy, for instance, or importance.
In theory, Pierre’s approach is suspect. The 20th century philosopher, Che Guevara, said, “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love”. The risk is real because love is not rational. Feelings are not rational. Love cannot guide because it is a feeling.
But this is ideology. And Guevara rejected it. He argued against the splitting of mind and body, feeling and intellect, art and science, faith and proof. Moreover, he followed a whole tradition of thinkers, not all revolutionaries, who also so argued. They wanted human, not just political, liberation, and they needed to know what “human” meant. They rejected liberalism because it didn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense, and this is known. But it persists because liberal intellectuals like Weschler don’t bother with philosophy. He admires Sacks, and names repeatedly the philosophers Sacks cared about. But he doesn’t do the work Gramsci said is essential to criticism: explaining the ideas that make other ideas plausible, even when they’re not, and it’s known.
It is significant that Pierre comes to his “insanity” after confronting death. He is a prisoner of Napoleon and is lined up to be executed. He watches the young man before him as he is shot dead. He notices how he crosses his leg as he stands, waiting to die. It is an ordinary gesture, but striking in the face of death, precisely for being ordinary.
Pierre expects to die. There’s no storytelling, no generating of meaning “from within” aimed at some abstraction called “self” or “purpose”. Herein lie what Tolstoy calls “unshakeable foundations”.
It’s mental silence: experience of the here and now, without expectations. A quiet mind is the exercise of one’s faculties – to see, hear, touch, smell, remember – without jarring, uncontrollable, mostly illogical mental conversation. Quietness fascinated Sacks.
He didn’t like Sartre’s “uncalmness”, his “chargedness”. Weschler mentions this but doesn’t explain. But we know Sacks didn’t like his own 1960s theory of behaviour because it didn’t account for “peacefulness, enoughness, satiety, repletion.” Sacks wouldn’t have liked Sartre because Sartre’s existentialism can’t handle stillness.
Liberal philosophy generally can’t handle it. It doesn’t fit with the liberal, capitalist “man of action”, the unrealistic individual with “power to seize their destiny”. Philosophers invented the “fact/value” distinction, suggesting knowledge about existence – what is – but not about what it means to be human.
It doesn’t respect science because it doesn’t respect cause and effect. But this is known, intellectually. It’s been argued for more than half a century in analytic philosophy of science. In practise, though, philosophy of science has no effect beyond its narrow specialization.
Sacks did have effect. His effect could be made more useful, though, if its real target were named and fully denounced.
We often hear about the power of gratitude for creating a more positive and happy mental state. But did you know that gratitude literally transforms your brain?
According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude literally changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier.
When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive, and less resistant. And gratitude is the most effective practice for stimulating feelings of happiness.
In this article we’ll share some of the research demonstrating that gratitude makes you happier, followed by some practical steps you can take to positively transform the molecular structure of the brain.
Studies of gratitude making you happier
In one study of gratitude, conducted by Robert A. Emmons at the University of California at Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. The participants kept a journal each week, with one group describing things they were grateful for, another describing what’s hassling them and the other keeping track of neutral events. After ten weeks, the participants in the gratitude group felt 25 percent better than the other groups, and had exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.
In a later study by Emmons with a similar set up, participants completing gratitude exercises each day offered other people in their lives more emotional support than those in other groups.
Another study on gratitude was conducted with adults suffering from congenital and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders (NMDs), with the majority of people having post-polio syndrome (PPS). Compared to those not jotting down what they’re grateful for every night, participants that did express gratitude felt more refreshed each day upon wakening. They also felt more connected with others than did participants in the group not expressing gratitude.
A fourth study didn’t require a gratitude journal, but looked at the amount of gratitude people showed in their daily lives. In this study, a group of Chinese researchers found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with better sleep, and also with lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Better sleep, with less anxiety and depression. Some compelling reasons to express gratitude more regularly.
Three simple steps to becoming more grateful
If you’ve only got time to say one prayer today, make it the simple words of “thank you.”
This is worth keeping in mind as you go about figuring out your daily practices and routines.
Here are three practical steps you can take to infusing routines of gratitude into your life.
1) Keep a daily journal of three things you are thankful for. This works well first thing in the morning, or just before you go to bed.
2) Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day.
3) Look in the mirror when you are brushing your teeth, and think about something you have done well recently or something you like about yourself.
ELON MUSK DOESN’T think his newest endeavor, revealed Tuesday night after two years of relative secrecy, will end all human suffering. Just a lot of it. Eventually.At a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, hastily announced via Twitter and beginning a half hour late, Musk presented the first product from his company Neuralink. It’s a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires, stitched into living brains by a clever robot. And depending on which part of the two-hour presentation you caught, it’s either a state-of-the-art tool for understanding the brain, a clinical advance for people with neurological disorders, or the next step in human evolution.
The chip is custom-built to receive and process the electrical action potentials—“spikes”—that signal activity in the interconnected neurons that make up the brain. The wires embed into brain tissue and receive those spikes. And the robotic sewing machineplaces those wires with enviable precision, a “neural lace” straight out of science fiction that dodges the delicate blood vessels spreading across the brain’s surface like ivy.
If Neuralink’s technologies work as Musk and his team intend, they’ll be able to pick up signals from across a person’s brain—first from the motor cortex that controls movement but eventually throughout your think-meat—and turn them into machine-readable code that a computer can understand. It might use them to control a computer or a prosthesis, to someday even feed information back to help the blind see, or to create entire virtual Matrixes inside your mind. “All this will occur I think quite slowly,” Musk said from the stage. “It’s not as if Neuralink will suddenly have this incredible neural lace and take over people’s brains. It will take a long time.” But after tests, and FDA approval, and more advances, this tech could be the thing that lets people commune with the ultrasmart artificial intelligences Musk is convinced are on the way. “Even in a benign AI scenario we will be left behind,” he said. “With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can actually go along for the ride. We can have the option of merging with AI.”
This is all pretty on-brand for Musk. As the guy who runs the electric-car company Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX, Musk has gotten very good at—in trouble, even, for—taking impressive technological achievements and, well, maybe not hyping them, but let’s say skipping all the way to the end of their speculative narrative arcs. It’s not enough to have superslick electric cars; no, they’re also going to drive themselves. That rocket isn’t just going to ferry cargo to a space station; no, it’s going to take people to Mars. How exciting!
Since The Wall Street Journalrevealed Neuralink’s existence two years ago, the tech and neuroscience worlds have buzzed about what Musk’s team of brain-machine interface experts was up to. Other companies, including Kernel and Facebook, announced they, too, were working on the technology, which has so far been used only in research and rare clinical settings. Darpa, the US government’s advanced-science division, has been funding brain-computer interface work since the 1970s, and the agency has been part of the government-wide Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (yes, the acronym is also “Brain”) since 2013.
So it’s hard to know exactly how to calibrate Musk’s claims for a device that he plans to eventually stick into healthy people’s brains. “We hope to have this aspirationally in a human patient by the end of next year,” Musk said. The first volunteers, he hopes, will be people with quadriplegia, willing to have four chips implanted, three in the motor cortex of the brain (roughly running from above the ear to the top of the head) and on providing closed-loop feedback to the somatosensory cortex. That’s even though, according to an article distributed at the presentation—and not peer-reviewed—the Neuralink technology is so far only in the heads of 19 rats, and even then with only 87 percent of the electrodes successfully inserted. The FDA is going to want more than that before it approves human use.
And, sure, there’s more. A public records request from WIRED in April 2019 found that Neuralink is licensed to have hundreds of rats and mice in its research facilities. In a seemingly unplanned moment at the Cal Academy, Musk also acknowledged that Neuralink’s research had progressed beyond rodents to non-human primates. It’s only because of a records request filed by Gizmodo that Neuralink’s affiliation with the primate research center at UC Davis is public knowledge. That affiliation has apparently progressed: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” Musk said during the Q and A after the presentation.
His team seemed as surprised and discombobulated by the announcement as the audience. “I didn’t know we were running that result today, but there it goes,” said Max Hodak, president of the company, on stage next to Musk. (Monkeys have controlled computers via BCIs before, though presumably this would be the first time one used Neuralink.)
(A separate records request from WIRED in August of 2018 reveals that Neuralink re-upped its deal with UC Davis in June of that year, a month after the Gizmodo article. That relationship hasn’t always been entirely cordial; emails obtained by WIRED show that in June of 2018 John Morrison, director of the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, complained that Neuralink was trying to poach UC Davis staffers. “I realize that this is routine practice in the private sector, but I am a little surprised since my understanding is that there was an interest in developing scientific collaboration between Neuralink and the CNRPC,” Morrison wrote to a redacted contact apparently at Neuralink. “Hiring away personnel does not build a relationship.”)
Music matters for its own sake, but also because, as our study shows, music engagement sustained from childhood into adolescence – particularly instrumental music that begins in elementary school – is significantly related to better high school achievement.
Study: Rich data
Thanks to rich educational and socio-economic data capturing the full population of B.C. public school students for several cohorts, we had an unprecedented opportunity to examine how student participation in music and music achievement predicted and related to provincial examination scores in high school English, math and science subjects. We looked at scores from provincial testing from Grade 10 math, science and English as well as Grade 12 English in relationship to students’ participation in music.
In our study, we counted both the number of high school courses taken, as well as student high school involvement and grades in graduation program music courses (concert band, jazz band, orchestra, piano and choir) taken across public high school years (Grades 8-12).
Based on previous research we inferred that music involvement that continued up to Grade 12 would be associated with (and predict) higher high school grades in mathematics, science and English. We expected instrumental music would have a more pronounced positive impact than vocal music.
We found that this is true, even when we take into account the following four factors: children’s prior elementary school educational achievement in numeracy and literacy, as captured by the B.C. Foundation Skills Assessment Grade 7 examination; gender; socioeconomic background (as gauged by the student’s home neighbourhood); linguistic diversity, captured by language spoken in the home.
We used a statistical regression model and adjusted our analyses to control for those four factors. We did this to demonstrate that these factors were not key determinants in musical or academic achievement and to address the problem of what researchers call confounding — unaccounted-for factors that might lead to incorrect findings.
While we are not yet able to infer causality — that music causes students to be smarter or improve their grades — we were able to identify a predictive relationship between music achievement and academic achievement, and demonstrate that more music engagement can be better for overall learning.
But music is an inherently complex phenomenon — there are many ways to make and engage with music. Many other studies have examined music participation but they didn’t take into account different types of music making such as instrumental music, vocal music, or other forms and amounts of engagement.
Students in the present study who were highly engaged in instrumental music were, on average, over one year ahead in their math, English and science skills, compared to those peers not engaged in school music.
To make music in upper secondary grade levels, students need to go beyond simple button pushing and the mechanical playing of instruments. Students need to “think music” through a process known as audiation. Audiation is the ability to compare what was heard in the immediate past in music listening with the present, and to connect what was heard with our expectations of what might come next. Music audiation ability is significantly correlated to the structure and function of the Heschl’s gyrus in the auditory cortex.
The patterns of our findings suggest that music participation – especially in instrumental music, and multiple years of engagement over time – confers cognitive benefits in the form of tangible differences in many aspects of academic learning.
When focusing solely on learners who took instrumental music, additional important and theoretically plausible findings are revealed — namely that there is a “dose-response” type relationship. This means that higher levels of engagement (more classes) in music are related to incrementally higher exam scores. We also see significant, predictive relationships between higher grades in instrumental music courses and higher exam scores.
Music may not make you smarter, but we now know that music engagement sustained from childhood into adolescence — and more of it, especially instrumental music — may lead to doing better in high school.
“A divided, poorly educated and uncritical society is particularly susceptible to a reactionary leader who can syncretize identity constructs and scapegoat others while gutting the public sphere. The use of fear to instill complacency, a sense of powerlessness and addiction to aggression at the behest of expansionism is characteristic of white supremacist, settler colonialist countries such as the US and Israel.”
Photograph Source: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv – Public Domain
No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.
In spite of a seemingly convincing victory in Israel’s recent elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a right-wing coalition, which would secure him the premiership for an additional four years.
The reason: hard-right Member of Knesset (MK), former Israeli Security Minister, and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Lieberman – a settler in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, ex-nightclub bouncer and convicted child beater – refused to budge on a draft bill for ultra-orthodox Jews. In response to Lieberman’s opportunistic move, a disheveled-looking Netanyahu spoke to reporters claiming: “Lieberman is now part of the left”.
Yet Lieberman is as far from left-wing politics as can be. In fact, his signature fascistic opinions are no secret – e.g. he has openly endorsed expulsion of Palestinians from Israel and spearheaded attempts to legalize execution and even beheading of Palestinian prisoners, whom he collectively refers to as “terrorists”.
Across the pond in the United States, President Donald Trump has adopted the term “radical left” to describe his opponents in the media and the Democratic Party. With the ramping up of the 2020 election fever, Trump will likely soon drop the “radical” and simply scapegoat the “left”.
These instances of illogical characterization of critique as coming from “the left” are a form of reactionary doublespeak, well-established in Israel and the United States of America. Those who challenge members of the ruling class are stereotyped, smeared and nonsensically labeled as traitorous lefties regardless of true political orientation.
Big (white) brother
According to Collins dictionary, the term “doublespeak”, widely attributed to George Orwell’s 1984 though it was never explicitly mentioned in the book (Orwell coined the terms “newspeak” and “doubletalk”, among others), is a means of ‘… presenting things in a way that is intended to hide the truth or give people the wrong idea.’
Doublespeak is a propaganda tool which purposefully obscures, falsifies, and/or reverses the meaning of language. It is used to shift the conversation away from the content of criticism illustrating logical fallacies, uncomfortable truths, and corruptions of the ruling class, toward an illogical, emotional, and cognitively dissonant reaction to an established stereotype – a “leftist” as contemptible, disloyal, hypocritical and cowardly.
Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
~ Paulo Freire
According to this narrative, the leftist seeks to weaken the “freedoms” and identity of supposed merited elements of society by promoting, at their expense, lazy freeloaders.
Thus, doublespeak serves to hardwire oppression, misogyny and the status quo of white male supremacy, protecting its accumulation and hoarding of resources at the expense of vulnerable societal groups.
Individualism versus collaboration
As a social species, humankind relies on its members for survival and progress. The modern scientific framework promotes a collaborative model in which conflict rooted in the premise of a critical interchange of ideas is encouraged as part of a need for the constant evolution of understanding and consequent ideas, ultimately leading to an equitable and sustainable existence.
In contrast, an individualistic approach animates an inherently oppressive cult of xenophobic identity and destructive conflict, discouraging collaboration and sustaining privilege through a denial of inconvenient facts and an ongoing obstruction of collectivism.
Instead of perceiving challenge, peer review and the scientific method as necessary for truth, subsequent accountability and consequent growth of humanity as a whole, it is perceived by individualists as an existential threat to their privilege. As such, reactionaries typically villainize academia and science, media and the arts and rely on celebritized pseudo-intellectuals to justify their privilege and oppression of others.
Pseudo-intellectuals and cults
Ben Shapiro, social media celebrity, pseudo-intellectual and inspiration to anti-Semites and white supremacists worldwide, recently exemplified doublespeak in an interview with BBC’s right-wing journalist Andrew Neil. When Neil challenged his opinions, Shapiro pleaded with the veteran Brit to admit he was “on the left” and abandoned the interview in protest, claiming Neil was “badly motivated”.
Pop psychologist Jordan Peterson is an additional noteworthy example of a pseudo-intellectual outside his own field who has become a cult-like thought leader amongst reactionaries. In his work, Peterson justifies inequality by claiming humans are naturally inclined to form hierarchies. He compares humans with lobsters and suggests neural systems involved in hierarchy formation in both species are controlled by the neurotransmitter molecule serotonin.
Peterson ignores and disappears studies of evolutionary biology and behavioral neuroscience which have demonstrated repeatedly the deep flaws of such a reductionist approach to the human brain and behavior. Drawing conclusions about complex social behaviors from comparisons between humans, a species with highly evolved brains with complex structures and many neurotransmitter systems, to lobsters, crustaceans with a comparatively primitive nervous system (comprised of ganglia and no brain) is blatant propagandistic pseudoscience.
This misuse of science to code cult dogma has its roots in the now highly discredited and racist theory of social Darwinism.
Trump and Netanyahu follow the fascistic playbook
Human progress – defined as sustainable, equitable and just – occurs when societies rely on historical precedents to build a framework of norms and taboos. In turn, these serve to promote progress by social enrichment on the one hand and curtailment of abuses of vulnerable and disenfranchised elements of society, on the other.
A divided, poorly educated and uncritical society is particularly susceptible to a reactionary leader who can syncretize identity constructs and scapegoat others while gutting the public sphere. The use of fear to instill complacency, a sense of powerlessness and addiction to aggression at the behest of expansionism is characteristic of white supremacist, settler colonialist countries such as the US and Israel.
Both charismatic leaders, Trump and Netanyahu skillfully use doublespeak to promote their reactionary, capitalist and white supremacist agendas. Alongside the degradation of intellectualism and collectivism, they employ trial balloons as a means of assessing public resistance before creating precedents and slogannistic memes, which serve to shatter acceptable taboos as preludes to authoritarianism.
Both Trump and Netanyahu have been able to manipulate a corrupt and often times subservient media to serve their purposes of distraction and scapegoating, which mask their ongoing looting of their country’s public domains.
The deployment of a barrage of manufactured spectacles produces an apathetic, distracted and fragmented public less likely to protest when its civil liberties are attacked and more likely to engage in infighting rather than confront the white patriarchal ruling class hegemony.
Whether it is Trump’s lies and daily tirades on Twitter or Netanyahu’s racist calls to his fanatical supporters on election night, both are adept at manipulating the public and media to serve their purposes.
With the growing tide of the global right, education of the public to the importance of reason, the scientific method and skills necessary for collaborative creation utilizing the power of conflict rooted in the premise of a critical interchange of ideas, are crucial to combat the contradictions of ruling class dogma and the complacency it manufactures.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone