Consciousness Research - U. of Arizona

I discovered another amazing center for research into consciousness. I have high hopes for this organization in terms of understanding the biological underpinnings of Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. I will adding this to my links section as another valuable resource.

Center For Consciousness Studies -- The University of Arizona
Promoting open, rigorous discussion of all phenomena related to conscious experience

The study of human consciousness is one of science's last great frontiers. After being neglected for many years (i.e. during a period of dominance by behaviorism in psychology), interest in the science of consciousness exploded in the last decades, with much progress in neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and other areas.

The University of Arizona has been at the center of these developments. The 1994 Tucson conference on "Toward a Science of Consciousness" is widely regarded as a landmark event, and the subsequent series of biennial conferences in Tucson have attracted extraordinary interest.

The Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona was formed in 1998 with a seed grant from the Fetzer Institute. The Center is a unique institution whose aim is to bring together the perspectives of philosophy, the cognitive sciences, neuroscience, the social sciences, medicine, and the physical sciences, the arts and humanities, to move toward an integrated understanding of human consciousness.

The Center is unique in its broad spectrum approach. Other groups tend focus either on cognitive neuroscience, philosophy or purely phenomenal experiential approaches, whereas the Center not only integrates these areas, but "thinks outside the box" of conventional wisdom which has thus far, at least, failed to make significant breakthroughs. The Center has also inspired other groups such as the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and those who organize other conferences.

"How Do You Feel When You Can't Feel Your Body?"

Current Research -- Cognitive Neuroscience

How Do You Feel when You Can't Feel Your Body? Interoception, Functional Connectivity and Emotional Processing in Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder
Published: June 26, 2014
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098769
Link To Multiple Authors

“Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder (DD) typically manifests as a disruption of body self-awareness. Interoception −defined as the cognitive processing of body signals− has been extensively considered as a key processing for body self-awareness.

In consequence, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether there are systematic differences in interoception between a patient with DD and controls that might explain the disembodiment symptoms suffered in this disease.

To assess interoception, we utilized a heartbeat detection task and measures of functional connectivity derived from fMRI networks in interoceptive/exteroceptivo/mind-wanderi ngstates. Additionally, we evaluated empathic abilities to test the association between interoception and emotional experience.

The results showed patient's impaired performance in the heartbeat detection task when compared to controls. Furthermore, regarding functional connectivity, we found a lower global brain connectivity of the patient relative to controls only in the interoceptive state. He also presented a particular pattern of impairments in affective empathy.

To our knowledge, this is the first experimental research that assesses the relationship between interoception and DD combining behavioral and neurobiological measures. Our results suggest that altered neural mechanisms and cognitive processes regarding body signaling might be engaged in DD phenomenology. Moreover, our study contributes experimental data to the comprehension of brain-body interactions and the emergence of self-awareness and emotional feelings.”

See Full Article Here

How Different Are We From Animals?

This is a stunning, deeply moving story of an abused primate; the story of his journey from a dysfunctional outcast to a healthy member of his community. It raises many questions about the effects of abuse on humans and throws me for a loop regarding the Nature/Nurture debate.

I am so convinced at times that my symptoms are purely neurological, but I cannot forget that chronic verbal abuse, neglect, and constant overstimulation had a tremendous effect on my mental health. Nature and Nurture are inextricably linked.

What is very difficult for me in reading this story is that love can be so powerful, so healing.
I truly was not loved by my parents and had no real support system to make up for that. Brian the bonobo seems to have been rescued from a life of misery with a holistic approach that depended heavily on love and support.

I am stunned that I am somewhat envious, but this helps me keep the faith. It keeps me humble in the face of animals that are very much like us and we are very much like them.

Brian The Mentally Ill Bonobo And How He Healed
By Alexis C. Madrigal
It took a troop of apes, and a psychiatrist, and a little Paxil.

“Things were not looking good for Brian. He'd been kept from the affection of his mother—and all other women—and raised alone by his father, who sexually traumatized him. Normal social interactions were impossible for him. He couldn't eat in front of others and required a series of repeated, OCD-like rituals before he'd take food. He was scared of any new thing, and when he got stressed, he'd just curl up into the fetal position and scream.

He also hurt himself over and over, tearing off his own fingernails and intentionally cutting his genitals. He was socially outcast, left to clap his hands, spin in circles, and stare blankly at walls by himself.
Still, some other bonobos were kind to him. Kitty, a 49-year-old blind female, and Lody, a 27-year-old male, spent time with Brian. When he panicked, Lody sometimes led him by the hand to their playpen at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

After six weeks, the zookeepers knew they had to do something. They called Harry Prosen, who was the chair of the psychiatry department at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who took Brian on as his first non-human patient.”

Brian’s story comes from a new book: Animal Madness: How anxious dogs, compulsive parrots, and elephants in recovery help us understand ourselves by Laurel Braitman.

If these stories do not move you, you have no heart.

Click the title to read Brian’s story. Clicking on “Animal Madness” will direct you to the book on Amazon. Savor!