Mapping Clinical Manifestations of Psychiatric Disorders to the Underlying Neurophysiological Lattice: Towards a Vocabulary of the Ecology of Mind

Note to the reader: While cleaning out my attic I stumbled across some items from my college days when I spent a lot of time in the stacks of the Bobst Library. Always fascinated by old books (and, I must admit, the aromatic allure of old paper) I would search out the dark corners of the stacks where some of the oldest items were stored. A few times I found typed documents folded between the pages of a book or bound volume of periodicals. Silently invoking the law of “finders keepers,” I took these documents as souvenirs, put them away in a box and forgot about them. But now, having rediscovered them, I felt that they would be of interest to this blog’s readers. Therefore, on a periodic basis, I will post the scanned pages. (You can see another scanned document here and here.)

Transcription

Dr. Ledbetter  …………………………………………………………………………………………. Page 1

Mapping Clinical Manifestations of Psychiatric Disorders to the Underlying Neurophysiological Lattice: Towards a Vocabulary of the Ecology of Mind by Dr. Phineas Ledbetter.

My esteemed colleagues who have studied with the great Dr. Freud and his disciples, have resisted any discussion of the underlying physiological layer that must, by definition, exist and be an integral part of any explanation of psychological phenomena. After all, it has already been established that the brain is the seat of all thought and emotion. Therefore, as a physical entity it must be the explanation of the psychiatric disorders that we see on a daily basis. What is missing, and what I am proposing in this paper, is the beginning of a vocabulary that can be used to discuss the transcription of the physiological to the psychological. After all, we have learned to talk about ordinary objects around us – that table, that chair – NOT in terms of molecular lattice but in terms of its aesthetics – it is light or dark wood, hard or soft, shiny or dull – and to speak about it meaningfully even though we know that there is an entire universe ‘within’ that table which we cannot see with the naked eye.

We currently have the vocabulary to speak about, say, manic depression, as it is experienced by the patient. We recently started to create a vocabulary for speaking about the underlying physiology so that, in the case of depression, we speak about neurotransmitters and various ‘receptor’ sites.¹  What we now need to do is create the conceptual schema that goes between the ‘clinical’ and the ‘physiological.’ That is, how does neurotransmitter activity (or lack thereof) become depression.

1 – Advances in the Understanding of the Physiology of Depression. Paper presented at the 1943 Vienna Conference of Psychiatry. Written by Dr. Wilhelm Heidelberg.

Dr. Ledbetter …………………………………………………………………………………………. Page 2

Part I: Basic Physiology of Depression

We currently believe that the hippocampus is somehow involved in depression, with the major activity going on at the level of the various neurons found there. A number of experiments performed at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Hospital in Long Island, New York, which employed the use of electrodes inserted into the brain of the patients and then stimulated through an advanced electrometer, showed that such stimulation seemed to have lessened the patient’s depression.² We do believe that there are other factors involved which we do not yet understand, however, we know that something is occurring on the physiological level and that this region of the brain plays a role in depression.

2 – The Beneficial Effects of Electrostimulation on the Hippocampus of Several Depressed Patients. Am. Jrnl of Psych., 24:3(1946) 116-123. Written by Drs. Pickering and Schwarzschild.

Dr. Ledbetter …………………………………………………………………………………………. Page 8

therefore, based on the understanding of the hippocampus as an electrical region, analogous to the static electricity experiments performed by Nikola Tesla, an electrical field (remember, this is only an analogy and not necessarily a description of how it truly works) reaches a saturation point, at that time we can say that the brain (the mind, really) has gone from a state of depression to a state of relative happiness. Further, the opposite is true, namely that the absence of such electrical saturation results in depression.

A graph of this phenomenon can be seen below. We see that a saturation point is reached where, once reached, the mind flips from depression to happiness.

We do not know, at this time, if this saturation point is universal or subject to differences in race. We suspect the latter since that would explain why some races of people are ‘naturally’ happier than others. Based on this understanding of the phenomenon, the saturation point would have to be different for the ‘happy’ people as opposed to everyone else. This requires further study.

Dr. Ledbetter …………………………………………………………………………………………. Page 9

Part V: Approaching a Vocabulary

We must alter our conceptual apparatus and think, not in terms of physiology but in terms of eco-logos, the study of living relations, hence, ecology. Thus we can describe, on a physiological level, that an elation saturation point is reached and, at that time, one goes from a depressive state to a general state of happiness.

Dr. Ledbetter …………………………………………………………………………………………. Page 14

elation saturation: the point at which the electrical potential within the hippocampus has reached the tipping point, so that the patient feels happy as opposed to depressed.

attentional web: as one’s attention focuses on a sea of objects and then selects a particular one to focus on, we see, physiologically, what looks like a growing web of electrical potential that begins in the frontal lobe and then fans out across the hemispheres. It is as if the mind was creating an actual web in the same way the attention creates a web and ensnares an object.

moral lines of force: morality acts as magnetic lines of force. When we perform the standard high school experiment of placing a magnet[ic] under a piece of paper, sprinkling iron filings on top and watching those filings align alone the magnetic lines of force, we find something similar happens physiologically when a person is making a moral decision. It is as if ‘good’ and ‘bad’ were represented by the poles of a magnet and the stronger pole prevails. We believe that this pattern of electrical activity may be susceptible to manipulation through the user of a strong magnetic field.

Dr. Ledbetter …………………………………………………………………………………………. Page ??

the demonstrations showed an interesting effect that I think may help to build this vocabulary, this eco-logos of the mind. It involved the use of high voltage and photographic plates. When applied to an object, the photographic plates displayed an aura, a corona, that emanated from the object. Professor Kirlian showed how this even works with human beings. The voltage used need not be very high, that is, it is at non-fatal levels, when used on a human being.

What I am proposing is that something analogous to this effect is taking place within the brain. What I’ve described as ‘saturation points’ are, essentially, those electrical potentials wherein such a corona may exist. That corona is, from the perspective of the human being, the particular feeling, such as elation, depression, etc. Physiological……has

An Interpretation of the Manuscript

Modern science has supplanted many “beliefs” with its own explanations for the same phenomena. For example, illnesses are not seen as the result of an imbalance of the humors in the body but are, instead, a result of various germs or interactions of substances (e.g., toxic chemicals; radioactive material, etc.) with the human body. The table analogy, noted in the manuscript, is relevant here. The table (i.e., the household object) is really composed of various molecules held together in such an arrangement that we have the characteristics of hardness, color, etc. We know that if we examined the table using increased magnification that we would find a lattice of molecules that bears no resemblance to the ordinary object known as “the table.” Further magnification, to the subatomic level, brings the laws of quantum mechanics into play. However, we can certainly describe, with great accuracy, the characteristics of the table without ever having to discuss the molecular structure of the table.

Dr. Ledbetter is trying to define the conceptual framework needed to understand the “mind” (analogous to understanding “the table” in terms of hardness, color, etc.) and the underlying mechanism, namely, the “brain” (analogous to understanding the table’s molecular and quantum mechanical dimensions) without reducing the former to the latter. (See Filling in the Gap which touches on the conceptual intersection between mind and brain.) Too often we confuse our metaphor for reality (See I, Human: Part I. See this and this where I discuss the issues/dangers of metaphor). Metaphor can illuminate but it can also obscure. It can be a “signpost” on the road to understanding but it is not “understanding” itself. We need to be aware of the mesmerizing effect a metaphor can have so that we are not tempted to take the metaphor as being a literal description of the reality.


Current Research

Other Information

The following comes from Dr. Parker via Twitter: Brain Series, co-hosted by Eric Kandel, and now posted in full online: http://bit.ly/1Wb29p

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