Friday, 27 February 2015

We underestimate the impact of Great Men, and the considerable time-lag of societal change


In considering the rise and decline of civilisations, nowadays we nearly always seriously underestimate the size of impact which one person can make. At least since Marx, it has been regarded as sophisticated to minimise and explain-away the distinctive contribution of any specific person - to trace all breakthroughs back through their component parts until it seems that things simply organised-themselves without any particular need for humans to take a role.

But it seems likely that original creative thinking is something which very few people can do; and without those very few people it simply does not get done;


The way I think of it is that:

At most a tiny proportion of people sometimes are able to make creative innovations (but in some places, at some times, such people are altogether lacking - and creativity dries-up).

A much larger proportion of people are able to understand innovations once they have been made. Thus a single major innovation can usually, over time, be substantially elaborated, and extrapolated, and improved by 'research and development'.

This extension of an initial breakthrough may unfold over several decades. The unfolding is one possible source of the considerable time-lag in societal change. A society can live-off its past geniuses for a long, long time (depending on the severity of threats it has to face).

And even when understanding has been lost, there are a hundredfold more who can 'operate' the tools and techniques and systems which have been left them by those who understand - and this can further extend the time-lag (although a society which has lost understanding as well as genius is even more vulnerable, more brittle, than the society which has understanding of what-is, but cannot make creative breakthroughs


This came to mind after reading Terryl Given's superb recent book Wrestling the Angel: the foundations of Mormon thought. Mormonism - which is now the religion of some 15 million people around the world, depends almost entirely on one man: Joseph Smith.

Givens make clear on the one hand was an extraordinary achievement came from Joseph Smith - the book of Mormon and other scriptures, the organisation of a new kind of church, an astonishingly radical yet coherent Christian theology - and on the other hand that this was Smith's achievement almost wholly, Smith provided all the major breakthroughs.

Those who followed (Brigham Young, the Pratt brothers etc) had the much. much easier task of organising, selecting and sorting, systematising, adding a little here and taking away a little there. But without Joseph Smith there would have been nothing. So in that sense the whole massive impact of Mormonism is down to a single man.

And the momentum created by that one man is still rolling onwards- even after nearly 200 years - showing the very considerable time-lag of development which often follows the intervention of a Great Man.


Something similar could be said of most major creative geniuses - they certainly did not do everything, nor did they invent everything they used - but without them nothing would have been done; in that sense it is all down to a very few individuals each of very great impact - each of whom was necessary, although not sufficient.

Necessary but not sufficient. No man is an island. The 'understanders' are also needed as well as the creators - but without creators essentially nothing happens except minor twiddling.

There never are very many Great Men, but when there are none - or none in the domains of life where they are most needed - it sets an absolute limit on what can be achieved, or what threats can be resisted.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Genius and social intelligence (High Psychoticism and the creative genius personality may be conceptualized as social intelligence co-opted for abstract thinking)

Humans are social animals: most Men see the world through social spectacles.

But a genius is not like this. The genius does not have a specific, positive personality type - but geniuses are characterised by not being primarily social animals. 

A genius is one whose main focus and motivation is not social, nor sexual; but instead abstract, not-social - whether artistic, scientific, technical or whatever it may be.   


Could it then be that the genius uses for abstract thinking, those brain-systems which in most people are used for social intelligence? That in the genius, the social intelligence system is wired-up to internal stimuli instead of to social situations? 

That the genius deploys the social intelligence parts of the brain for other purposes - and that therefore the usual spontaneous motivation and attention that goes to social material is instead - automatically - being harnessed and deployed to deal with other and inner-generated material. 


So, it is not that geniuses lack social intelligence (the genius is not 'autistic' in the sense of having a deficit or defect in social intelligence); rather that geniuses have all the 'equipment' necessary for social intelligence, but are 'wired-up' to use their social intelligence for other and not-social purposes. 

Specifically, the genius social intelligence may be wired-up to internally-generated material (instead of attending to to actual people in the environment and from memory).  The spontaneous interest and concern with 'other people' that is characteristic of most people; is, in the genius, directed to whatever 'abstract' subject the genius has a vocation-for. 


Another way of thinking about this is that the genius may be able to deploy extra 'brain power' in problem solving, by 'co-opting' the brain regions normally used for social intelligence. 

And not only brain power - but the distinctive 'theory of mind' mode of thinking which characterises social intelligence. So the genius thinks about 'his subject' in a social-like way - as a world populated by entities with motivations and dispositions and each having a purpose (teleology). 

Social intelligence could be much of what is creative about creativity; because to think about abstract things 'anthropomorphically' with social intelligence, or animistically as if they were sentient social agents, perhaps opens-up a new and probably more creative, intuitive and flexible way of thinking. 


The necessity of genius for societal problem-solving - much greater than recognized due to the recent 'surplus' of geniuses

During the 1800s it was generally recognised that 'great men' - including geniuses - were essential to the survival,  problem-solving ability and progress of societies^. If there was an insufficient supply of geniuses, then society would be static at best, and would crumble and collapse as soon as it encountered a novel threat which tradition or trial and error was incapable of solving.  

But through the twentieth century the idea emerged, especially in science, that no individual person made an essential contribution - and that if Professor A had not made his big discovery, then one or several of Professors B, C, or D would have made essentially the same breakthrough within a short space of time. This suggested that science was primarily a process, and that no individual was indispensable.

This idea was propagated even among some geniuses, and even when arguing for the existence of exceptions - for example Paul Dirac (himself a genius) said in praising Einstein for the uniquely personal breakthrough of General Relativity that all other breakthroughs in physics (including his won) merely accelerated the progress of the subject by a few years at most.

But I believe this view was an artefact of the extremely-unusual high prevalence of geniuses in science during the couple of centuries leading up to the mid-twentieth century; the fact that many were working in certain specific areas such as physics, and the sudden pooling of talent resulting from fast international travel and communication. For a while, a short while in fact, just a few decades, there were more physics geniuses than were strictly needed - and any one of them (except probably Einstein) had 'back-up' from one or more individuals of similar ability and interests.

But now that geniuses have dwindled and dwindled in numbers and as a proportion, until it is hard to name any living geniuses in most major areas of human endeavour; I think we are ready to recognise that the usual situation is that there is at most one person in any given time and place who is capable of making a major breakthrough.

And if for whatever reason that individual person does not exist, or fails to make the breakthrough - or if the breakthrough is made but ignored - then that is that: there is no back-up.

If a genius cannot do it, then it is not done.

Part of this is ability - but that is only part of it: the other half is motivation. Most major breakthroughs require several or many years of dedicated and focused work - the kind of dedicated work that can only arise from genuine, spontaneous inner motivation.

For example, for Andrew Wiles to prove Fermat's Last Theorem required not only one of the best mathematicians in the world, but the inner drive to do many years of solitary, dedicated (and career threatening) work - then to fail in the initial attempt, to resume the solitary and focused search, and second time to find the right answer.

Wiles's level of motivation coupled with ability is very, very rare indeed - such that I think we can say that if he had not proved Fermat's Last Theorem  twenty years ago, it would still not be proved - and perhaps it never would have been proved.

This, I believe, is the usual situation with geniuses through most of history and most of the time: they do what only they can do; they are irreplaceable.

And the shape of history is substantially affected by the presence, or absence, of such men.


^See William James - Great Men, Great Thoughts and the Environment - 1880. James himself was an example of an irreplaceable Great Man - indeed I believe that the scope of his vital contribution has not even yet been comprehended or implemented.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

How could Mouse Utopia lead to the maladaptive nonsense of New Left Political Correctness? Mainly by allowing it, not directly causing it


If it seems plausible that the Mouse Utopia accumulation of deleterious genetic mutations may have had a role in the modern phenomenon of New Leftism or Political Correctness - then how might this work?

The basic idea is that generation upon generation mutation accumulation - beginning in the upper classes - has had several effects. One is to reduce intelligence (specifically 'g' or general intelligence).

But reducing intelligence is not really the root problem, because the insanities of Political Correctness are so gross as not to require high intelligence to comprehend them - indeed, Political Correctness arose and took root and grew mostly among those of above average intelligence.

Neither does the maladaptiveness of Mouse Utopia lead to evil - evil has other sources.

The problem is a failure of common sense, of basic instincts to detect threat and for survival - the failure of normal and adaptive motivations in relation to social life and sexuality.


The way I think it worked is that there were always foolish and wicked ideas in the public arena; but in the past there was a sufficiently high average level of common sense that the foolishness was obvious, and the need to reject foolish ideas on common sense grounds was compelling.

Nowadays many, perhaps most, people lack the most basic understanding of what is normal, pathological, healthy, damaging, adaptive, disgusting, desirable, sensible, stupid. Therefore ridiculous notions are accepted and gone-along-with, with little more than a vaguely confused shrug. Therefore wicked, destructive, horrible ideas are accepted and gone-along-with when they are wrapped-up in the grossest and most clear-cut nonsense.


So, this is what I think may have happened. After several generations of Mouse Utopia, many social and sexual adaptations have been damaged in many different ways in most people - so it is possible for the small minority of purposively evil masterminds behind Politically Correct Leftism to impose their ideas on a modern population, where they inflict personal and social damage of many types - when this imposition would have been impossible in any previous human society.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Mouse Utopia as an explanation for Political Correctness

The Mouse Utopia term is explained below ^

It is possible, perhaps even plausible, that the usual type of explanation for the self-hating, self-destructive insanities of New Left Political Correctness may be insufficient - and that in reality the core, permissive, necessary factor has not been socio-political but instead biological.

If the Mouse Utopia scenario is accepted, then since about 1800 in England (where the industrial revolution began), and starting with the upper classes (who were the first to benefit from lowering child mortality rates, and also the first to reduce fertility) then new and almost always deleterious mutations have been building up generation upon generation.

These mutations are 'random' and their effects fall randomly in the genome - how would they show themselves?

The answer is they would affect behavioural traits that are quantitative fitness measures (such as general intelligence, which has apparently declined rapidly and substantially over the past couple of centuries); and mutations would also have an early and rapid effect on behavioural traits that are the most sensitive and subtle, such as social and sexual adaptations.


In particular, I think the first affected traits would be attitudes.

I think that attitudes are extremely sensitive to even slight pathology, sickness, dysfunction of many types; and would therefore change before actual behaviours changed.

Thus, an early sign of Mouse Utopia would be changes in attitudes, especially social and sexual attitudes - and since mutations are nearly always harmful what we might see was...

Maladaptive changes in social and sexual attitudes.


By maladaptive I mean tending to reduce personal (and group) survival, and reduce reproduction.

Well... it fits with political correctness, like a glove.

Not proof - but the social and sexual domination of modern Leftism seems to be consistent with Mouse Utopia.


^ The Mouse Utopia hypothesis (deriving from Michael A Woodley) is that the relaxation of the historically very harsh forces of natural selection - especially the near abolition of child mortality in recent decades - has led to a generation-by-generation, objectively-dysgenic accumulation of deleterious mutations that are incrementally destroying the adaptiveness of the human species.

This process has been accelerated by a reversal of the historical pattern of reproductive success which started from the early and mid 1800s in the West, to favour the reproductive success of the lowest in intelligence (= highest in mutation load), and on average of lower social class and status. In other words, differential fertility has favoured those who would, on average, be carrying the heaviest load of deleterious mutations - while those who would be expected to have the least mutations have declined to severely sub-replacement fertility.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Introversion/ Extraversion and Neuroticism/ Emotional Stability in Genius

I have written extensively on the Psychoticism trait  - its nature and role in Genius; but have so-far neglected to discuss Eysenck's other suggested major personality traits of Introversion/ Extraversion and Neuroticism/ Emotional Stability



In general, it would be expected that Introversion trait was high in genius - in the sense that introverts are inner-stimulated and autonomous of their environment, in contrast with extraverts who depend on external stimulus to maintain a state of arousal or alertness.

But the self-rating scales for measuring Introversion focus on behaviours, and not psychological mechanisms - therefore those scoring high in Introversion will include people who are simply anhedonic, inactive; who lack motivation and drive - and these attributes would be fatal to the prospects of a genius accomplishing anything significant.

In other words, real Introversion would be a characteristic of genius, but a high score on the introversion scale would also contain undermotivated people - thereby blurring the measurement by misclassification error.

Thus, a genius needs to be a genuine introvert; but people with pathology might lead to 'false positive' measures of high introversion.



Analogously, but in the opposite direction, high Neuroticism (N) would be bad for a genius, in the sense that N refers to an unpleasant and overwhelming sensitivity of emotions and moods to the environment - such that a high N person tends to be overwhelmed with negative emotions such as anxiety, shyness, low self esteem, misery etc.

But the opposite state of low-N (or high Emotional Stability) as it is measured by behavioural questionnaires, is also potentially hostile to genius, since it implies an insensivity to events; a lack of emotional-responsiveness - including people with weak emotions.

These would all tend to be a disadvantage to genius - since emotions are used to evaluate situations and evidence; so weak emotions would tend to impair discrimination.

These would be the processes of Neuroticism, but in practice N is measured using a tally of (usually self-reported) behavioural traits - and these could not distinguish between different causes of the same behaviour; and so would conflate subtle and useful emotional sensitivity, with the pathological state of too-easy triggering of negative emotions.

So, a genius might score as somewhat high in N, but this would not necessarily reflect a pathology.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Creativity in low-Psychoticism people (i.e. creativity in average and normal people)

Although creativity is strongest in those high in the personality trait of Psychoticism (P), it is not restricted to those of high-P personality: probably, everyone is creative to some extent.

How then does creativity show itself in low-P individuals? - given that the distribution of Psychoticism within the population is 'positively-skewed' - in other words a majority of people are low in psychoticism, and only a small proportion high in P.

Furthermore, Psychoticism trait has a higher average in men than women, and a lot more men are high in P than women. This shows itself both in terms of the typical creative interests of 'normal' boys-men and girls-women - and also in the much higher proportion of men among the most creative people: the geniuses.


In people low in Psychoticism, creativity is there but weak, seldom activated, not-dominant, short-lived and - as a rule - subordinated to social (including sexual) imperatives which are the primary drive for most people.

Of course, almost by definition, creativity in the normal majority of people is not necessarily impressive or rare. So this creativity tends to be private, and almost invisible at a societal level (especially in large modern societies).

The easiest way to see creativity is perhaps in children - especially in older but pre-pubertal children, and their 'crazes' and hobbies.

Boys often have very creative hobbies in which they become mini-experts and avid dissenters of subjects like cars, aeroplanes, sports, crafts etc - also in reading particular books (on favourite themes or by favourite authors), or TV series. These children often live chunks of their leisure time psychologically-inside a very intense parallel 'fantasy world'.

Girls may also have crazes on particular books; also they may become passionate about horses, or fashion, or hairdressing, or pretending to be a teacher.


Aside - It is noticeable that girls crazes tend to be more socially-inflected and less abstract; and this follows through to adult life, and high achievement. The highest frequency of genius, or near-genius, level achievement among women is focused on the most social and human aspects of the arts and sciences - and much rarer in abstract areas.

For instance, there are many and well known women novelists in the front rank - the novel being the most 'social' of art forms. And in science, the highest achievements of women are in the human sciences rather than the physical sciences - and within biology women have been very prominent in social areas like primatology and anthropology.


But to return to the theme, normal and average creativity is seen in hobbies, and how people use their discretionary time; and the fact that hobbies are for most people subject to work, relationships and daily life is due to the low-P, low creativity personality.

Normal people are creative, to some subordinate extent; and they fit creativity into their lives.

But geniuses fit their lives around their hobbies, and geniuses make their hobbies (avocations) into their life (their vocations).


Thus Robert Frost (a poet of genius) expresses the difference:

Two Tramps in Mud Time

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn't blue,
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You'd think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right--agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.


Monday, 9 February 2015

How - and why - genius is group selected - massive cultural amplification

It may be wondered why I am so confident that genius is group-selected (apart from the fact that Michael A Woodley persuaded me!) considering that the status of group selection remains controversial within evolutionary biology.

That groups selection remains controversial is largely, perhaps, the result of the influence of Richard Dawkins's 1976 book The Selfish Gene; which hugely popularised the kin selection/ inclusive fitness ideas of WD Hamilton - which were presented as if they refuted the case for group selection; while omitting that WD Hamilton was himself a lifelong believer in the reality of group selection (as may be seen from his three volume collection Narrow Roads of Gene Land).


Note added: What is the essence of group selection of genius? 

It is simply that genius is essentially for the benefit of the group and not for the benefit of the genius himself.

In terms of natural selection, this means the work of genius is 'for' the genetic benefit of the group; in broader terms this means the works of genius are 'for' general social benefit (therefore, not for the specific private benefit of the genius himself).


The basic reason for entertaining the hypothesis of group selection for genius, is that on average genius has poor reproductive success - with an average of less than two offspring per genius from most estimates; indeed many geniuses seem to have had no children at all (Newton, Beethoven) - and especially among the relatively few women geniuses (e.g. Jane Austen, George Eliot, Emily Dickenson).

Certainly, there is near-zero evidence of enhanced reproductive success for geniuses - indeed this is extremely implausible given that geniuses invest far less effort and resources into social and sexual goals than average people do - due to their investing so much more effort and resources into the subject matter of their genius.

Therefore, the 'standard' mechanism of natural selection is apparently not the cause of geniuses, and we must look at indirect mechanisms.


The theoretical problem with group selection is that if an allele occurs by chance which reduces differential reproductive success (RS) in direct descendants while enhancing the success of the group overall, then this mutation will tend to go extinct over not many generations.

This is true enough, so far as it goes; but does not eliminate the possibility that a population may produce an enhanced number of geniuses by group selection for at least several generations - if there is some mechanism to over-compensate for the reduced differential RS of genius - i.e. the decline in the proportion of the 'genius alleles' in the population may be overcompensated by a mechanism leading to an increase in the absolute number (not proportion) of genius alleles.

The answer is that a reduced proportion of 'genius alleles' in the group can be over-compensated by the massive effect of even one world-historical genius on the group as a whole - and more so by the presence of several major geniuses.

So if the presence of a genius results in the expansion of the population of his group (or arrests the decline of a sufficiently large group), then genius alleles might survive in increased numbers for several generations.


What seems to have happened in England, for example, is that during the Medieval period, natural selection acted to increase the average intelligence of the society - which had the effect of increasing the capability of the geniuses - so that their work became of world-historic (rather than merely local) importance.

The initial effect, from about the seventeenth century, seems to have been an increase in the proportion and number of geniuses, leading to a strengthening and expansion of the kind of society which had led (by various means) to that initial high proportion of geniuses.

English geniuses began to accumulate so quickly, and make so many innovations in agriculture and industry, that the English population expanded very rapidly; and the English 'group' began to spread around the world to India, North America, Australasia, South Africa, and so on.


In other words, the genius alleles in England were probably a relatively-slowly dwindling proportion of a very-rapidly expanding population - thus genius alleles were (for several generations) increasing in number, even as they reduced in proportion. Genius preserved itself, for a while; even though the genius alleles led to on-average reduced reproductive success.


The reason why genius may confidently be assumed to be potentially group selected is therefore that the cultural impact of a genius upon the group is so vast that it dwarfs any potential genetic influence.

So one single genius who provides a breakthrough that massively enhances something like food production, military technology, building, the cohesive benefits of religion, effectiveness of societal organization, price or swiftness or trade or transportation, or economic efficiency... can enormously expand the size and domination of this genius's group - such that the rising tide (of culture) floats all (genetic) boats (at least for a few generations).

In other words, the genius's large 'group' of cultural partners will experience a tremendous boost to their reproductive success - thereby expanding the same kind of society which (through whatever combination of genes and culture and whatever else) produced, sustained and recognized the genius in the first place.

In sum a genius will tend to enhance the genius-friendly society which produced him.


On top of this, it may be that the conditions which favoured genius in the first place, do so because (in that particular, contingent, time and place) groups can survive and grow only by creative innovation. Clearly this has not been the usual or typical case in the history of most places; but it certainly looks as if it may have been the case in and around Europe throughout the Middle Ages.

Since the personality trait of Psychoticism seems to provide the creativity aspect of genius; then all that is required was for natural selection to lead to a positively-skewed and sexually differentiated distribution of Psychoticism trait - so that the population would contain a small (but vital) proportion of High Psychoticism Males  - as the specialist creative innovators.

This would explain the distribution of High Psychoticism - in a minority because the majority are needed for reproduction; and in males, because there is a relative surplus of males, and through most of history the majority of reproduction has been done by a small minority of optimal fitness males selected by a strong selective sieve of high mortality rates, and validated by intensive male-versus-male competition for mates and matings. 


On the other hand, what might be termed a bad, or destructive genius - will also have a massively damaging effect to the culture which produced him. The work of a negative genius will tends to damage the size, effectiveness, efficiency, reproduction, cohesion or some other useful attribute of the group which produced him.

Therefore, when a genius is bad, the amplification effect works in the opposite direction to wreak wholesale destruction.

Indeed, since it is easier to destroy than to create; it might be expected that bad geniuses will have a larger effect than good ones. It is plausible that Napoleon (building on the French Revolution) single-handedly inflicted permanent damage on the French nation by the mass maiming and slaughter of the most able, and able-bodied, men. Hitler perhaps did much the same to Germany; Lenin and Stalin to Russia. From England, the genius of Karl Marx and other 'reformers', socialists, feminists, sexual revolutionaries, atheists and radicals - unleashed truly massive group damage; initially locally, but affecting by now the whole world.


In summary, genius is an unstable product of nations.

A nation with conditions that produce many geniuses may find itself undermined both by the success of its good geniuses (because such is the amplification effect on genius, that useful innovations are difficult to keep secret, and tend to spread from the originating group to that group's enemies); and by its bad geniuses.

Genius may, for a while, lead to more genius - by group selection. But sooner or later, the massive amplification effect of genius is likely to destabilize and destroy the system that engendered it; or else the fitness-reducing effect of genius alleles will tend towards genetic extinction.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Therapeutic benefits of stimulant and sedative psychoactive drugs explained in terms of sleep dissociation

Using the analysis of sleep as a dissociated state,

I will (tentatively) suggest a way in which stimulant and sedative drugs might work to have their different therapeutic effects on different psychiatric symptoms or disorders.

Broadly speaking, stimulants may improve states involving emotional blunting/ anhedonia and also movement disorders (such as Parkinson's disease and catatonia) originating in the basal ganglia benefit; while sedative agents may benefit psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and thought disorder, and also conditions excessive emotionality.  


Sleep phase should be defined by what parts of the brain, what brain functions, are actually asleep - i.e. that are being rested and restored - and not by the brain regions or functions that remain active.

Therefore REM/ Dreaming sleep is a misnomer - because it describes the brain function that remains active, when the key aspect ought to be that during REM/ dreaming sleep, movement is paralysed (muscles are flaccid - except for eye movement) and (presumably) the basal ganglia - which fine-tune movement and emotions - are also being rested and restored.

In Deep Sleep, the musculature (and presumably basal ganglia) remain functional, but the key fact is that the brain functions related to awareness are being rested and restored (because during Deep Sleep we lose awareness, and are unaware of time passing, and have no long-term memory for what - if anything - has subjectively been happening).


Thus (to simplify - no doubt other functions are involved):

Deep sleep is about restoration of brain regions and functions related to awareness.

REM/ Dreaming sleep is about restoration of brain regions and functions related to emotions (and movements) - since emotions depend on the basal ganglia.


I suggest that stimulants and sedative have two, non-symmetrical actions on sleep phase architecture:

Stimulants stimulate REM/ Dreaming sleep - and thereby 'switch-off' and rest the basal ganglia with the effect of improving mood and emotional responsivity (and reducing basal ganglia induced movement disorders - such as Parkinson's disease and catatonia).

Sedatives suppress REM/ Dreaming sleep - and thereby switch-off and rest awareness. If (as I believe) hallucinations and thought disorder can validly be conceptualised as awake-dreaming - or, dreams intruding into the alert state to induce hallucinations, and breaking-up the stream of consciousness to induce thought disorder - then psychosis is a pathology of awareness.

The suppression of REM sleep by sedative could have therapeutic benefits if there is pathological awareness (for instance awareness of dreams intruding into the awake state), or emotions are too strong: that is if emotional strength is excessive.

There might also be an indirect effect from sedatives of re-balancing the sleep architecture towards Deep sleep and away from REM/ Dreaming sleep; and this may serve to reduce hallucinations and thought disorder.

However, the existing available sedatives only tend to enhance the shallower levels of deep sleep (Stages 1 and 2) and typically do not produce a natural and ideally restorative sleep (Stages 3 and 4) so that patients report sleeping more hours, but seldom wake-up fully refreshed.


An agent both stimulant and sedative would be Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

ECTs putative actions include a generalised Grand Mal cortical seizure that also (probably) involves the basal ganglia; then a 're-booting' phase after the seizure as the brain recovers from the depolarisation of a Grand Mal fit; an immediate post-ictal sleep; and the probability of better quality (more restorative) sleep on the night following the ECT treatment

How these effects might interact to improve sleep architecture is highly tentative, but ECT seems to be able to produce deeper Deep sleep Phase (eg Stages 3 and 4) than normal drug sedatives - at any rate, reports of sleep after successful ECT are that it is restorative and satisfying in a way that is superior to sedative drugs.

Furthermore, the benefits of ECT in demotivated and anhedonic Psychotic Depression, and also Parkinson's disease and catatonia (plus cerebrospinal fluid measurements) strongly imply that ECT enhances dopamine activity in both the meso-limbic system and the basal ganglia (especially the substantia nigra).

I would therefore suggest that ECT operates to enhance both Deep and Dreaming sleep - giving it an all-round therapeutic effect which goes beyond any of the usual drugs.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

All natural sleep is a dissociated state

There is never a time during sleep when all of the brain is sleeping - and the sleep cycle is a rotation between one part of the brain sleeping and another.

Dissociated means that some parts of the brain (and some functions) are asleep while others are awake.

In Deep Sleep the conscious mind is asleep, and we are not aware of time passing - but the muscles remain tonic, and it is possible to respond 'automatically' to the environment, tossing and turning in be, and even sleep talking and sleep walking.

In REM/ Dreaming Sleep, the muscles are by contrast paralysed, and there is no physical interaction with the sleeper's environment - but we are conscious and aware of time passing, and dreaming; and can hear and feel the environment (sometimes this gets incorporated into dreams).

Why cannot all the brain be asleep at once? Probably because we must remain in contact with the environment to some extent, and because the awake parts of the brain are needed to re-awaken those parts that are asleep.

Presumably if the whole brain is asleep and 'switched off' and out of contact with the environment; then this is a coma. And it is hard to awaken from a coma precisely because the whole brain is asleep and also cut-off from the environment so the sleeper is both paralysed and unaware - cannot hear or feel or move.

So, naturally, we are never wholly asleep.