Finally, APA bans work on ‘war on terror’ interrogations

After media allegations of psychologists’ role in torture, senior resignations, accusations of rigged committee votes and underhand tactics, a partial condemnation, a clarification, an ‘anti-torture’ candidate standing for the presidency and the forcing of a referendum, the American Psychological Association has finally and unequivocally banned participation of its members in military interrogations after a popular vote.

The debate has largely been sparked by the existence of psychology-led Behavioural Science Consultation Teams (aka ‘biscuit teams‘) in Guantanamo Bay who study inmates and recommend ‘personalised’ interrogation techniques – some of which were described as “tantamount to torture” in a leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross and explicitly condemned as torture by the United Nations.

The text of the new resolution states that “psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights”.

The effect of the ban on these practices is questionable, however, and the influence is more likely to be at the organisational level.

Despite the psychiatric and medical associations’ immediate and unequivocal ban on their members’ participation in ‘war on terror’ interrogations, the complicity of medical staff is widely reported.

The fact that APA membership is optional for many psychologists and that most of the contested interrogations occur in secret or closed facilities means that disciplining individual psychologists will remain difficult at best.

However, the ban will mean that the APA will find it difficult to show any public support for the role of psychology in interrogations, and, perhaps more importantly, to make explicit organisational links between the psychologists’ governing body and the US intelligence services.

Some have speculated that the two years of APA heel dragging suggest a more chummy relationship with the military than has been admitted publicly and this new ban may be a bigger blow than is obvious if this turns out to be true.

Link to APA announcement of ballot result and full ban.
Link to good write-up from the New York Sun (via MeFi).

Fearing pharmaceutical modifications

Psychology Today journalist Matthew Hutson covers an interesting study that investigated which drug-based enhancements people are most comfortable with and which changes to the self people view negatively.

It seems drugs that potentially change our fundamental character traits are treated with most suspicion whereas those that change our abilities are thought to be the most acceptable.

Collaborators Jason Riis at NYU, Joseph Simmons at Yale, and Geoffrey Goodwin at Princeton first asked people to rate how fundamental a series of traits were to personal identity. In order of rated importance, the traits were: reflexes, rote memory, wakefulness, foreign language ability, math ability, episodic memory, concentration, music ability, absent-mindedness, self-control, creativity, emotional recovery, relaxation, social comfort, motivation, mood, self-confidence, empathy, and kindness. So people tend to think that emotional traits are more fundamental than cognitive ones.

The researchers then found that people are most reluctant to take pills that enhance the highly fundamental traits. Their most cited concern was personal authenticity…. When rating which types of enhancements should be banned, people instead based their decisions on concerns about competitions and fairness–morality rather than identity.

Link to write-up.
Link to study abstract.

2008-09-19 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

The New York Times discusses the recent case in India where a controversial ‘brain scan lie detection’ test was used to convict someone for murder.

Screaming energy! A fan site that reviews energy drinks with, rather predictably, excessive levels of enthusiasm.

“Thinking about Not-Thinking”: Neural Correlates of Conceptual Processing during Zen Meditation. Fantastic study published in open-access science journal PLoS One.

Sharp Brains has an interview with the wife of Bob Woodruff, a reporter who has made and written about his recovery from brain injury.

Do recent neurological studies prove once and for all that homosexuality is biological? Salon has an interview with neurologist and gay activist Jerome Goldstein.

Not Exactly Rocket Science covers new research suggesting political beliefs can be reflected in more fundamental cognitive processes.

The Frontal Cortex continues the theme with a study that provides a lovely example of motivated reasoning and bias in judging political contradictions.

A reporter for Popular Mechanics throws himself out of a plane as part of an experiment on the psychology of fear.

The New York Times has a surprisingly uncritical article on ‘child bipolar disorder’. Furious Seasons has a good counterpoint.

Even music played before or after a film character is shown affects our perception of their emotion. Fascinating piece of research covered by Cognitive Daily.

Time magazine looks at the US Military’s plans for advanced brain-computer interface controlled weapons systems.

ABC Radio National’s Philosopher’s Zone has a great discussion on the concept of love while the The LA Times looks at the psychology of commitment and infidelity.

Neuroanthropology has a video discussion from behavioural economist and ‘Nudge’ author Richard Thaler.

Neuropsychiatrist and ex-English literature professor Nancy Andreasan is interviewed by The New York Times.

Electric blue

I’ve just found this fascinating article about how electricity became featured in entertainment shows shortly after it was harnessed and took on an erotic undercurrent, leading to theories of sexuality that attempted to explain the differences between male and female ‘electric fire’.

The abstract alone is wonderful to read:

Sparks in the dark: the attraction of electricity in the eighteenth century.

Bertucci P.

Electricity was the craze of the eighteenth century. Thrilling experiments became forms of polite entertainment for ladies and gentlemen who enjoyed feeling sparks, shocks and attractions on their bodies. Popular lecturers designed demonstrations that were performed in darkened salons to increase the spectacle of the so-called electric fire. Not only did the action, the machinery and the ambience of such displays match the culture of the libertine century, it also provided new material for erotic literature.

This is one of the many curious paragraphs from the actual article:

Women became essential protagonists of electrical soirées. Electrical performances staged in courts and salons counted on their active participation and played with sexual difference. Although both men and women could experience the electric fire with their bodies, they would tackle it in different ways. The most common electrical experiments provide a glimpse into the different roles salon culture codified for ladies and gentlemen. One of the most popular demonstrations of the time was the electrifying Venus, or electric kiss. Invented by the German professor Georg Matthias Bose, it was soon replicated throughout Europe. The experiment was simple to organize. The selected lady would stand on an insulated stool while an operator charged her body with an electrical machine. Gentlemen in the audience would then be invited to kiss her, but alas, as they tried to approach her lips a strong spark would discourage any attempt, while exhilarating the lady and the rest of the audience.

Link to article ‘Sparks in the dark’.
Link to PubMed entry.

Robotic thoughts

The Economist has a good write-up of a recent PLoS One study that found that the perceived ‘human-ness’ of another player in a game altered the extent of activation in brain areas associated with understanding others’ mental states.

The participants were asked to play the prisoner’s dilemma game in a brain scanner and were introduced to four opponents – software on a laptop, a laptop controlled by robotic hands, a humanoid robot and a real human. In reality though, the other players’ moves were all randomly generated.

Dr Krach and Dr Kircher chose the “prisoner’s dilemma” game because it involves a difficult choice: whether to co-operate with the other player or betray him. Co-operation brings the best outcome, but trying to co-operate when the other player betrays you brings the worst. The tendency is for both sides to choose betrayal (thus obtaining an intermediate result) unless a high level of trust exists between them. The game thus requires each player to try to get into the mind of the other, in order to predict what he might do. This sort of thinking tends to increase activity in parts of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex and the right temporo-parietal junction.

The scanner showed that the more human-like the supposed opponent, the more such neural activity increased. A questionnaire also revealed that the volunteers enjoyed the games most when they played human-like opponents, whom they perceived to be more intelligent. Dr Krach and Dr Kircher reckon this shows that the less human-like a robot is in its appearance, the less it will be treated as if it were human. That may mean it will be trusted less—and might therefore not sell as well as a humanoid design.

It’s an interesting extension of a type of study first pioneered by psychologist Helen Gallagher and colleagues where she asked people to play ‘paper, scissors, stone’ supposedly against human and computer opponents in a PET scanning study.

Like with this recent study, all ‘opponents’ were actually just a series of randomly generated moves but the participants showed significantly greater brain activation in the frontal cortex when playing against the supposedly ‘human’ opponent than versus the computer.

The philosopher Daniel Dennett suggests that attributing mental states is a particular way of thinking about something that he calls the ‘intentional stance‘.

For example, we might play a chess computer and treat it if it was ‘intending’ to take our our bishop, or as if it ‘believed’ that getting the Queen out would be an advantage, but this says nothing about whether the machine actually has intentions or beliefs.

Of course, we can apply this to humans, and just because we find it useful to talk about others’ beliefs, it doesn’t mean belief is necessarily a scientifically sound concept.

Link to Economist article ‘I, human’.
Link to full-text article in PLoS One.

Full disclosure: I’m an unpaid member of the PLoS One editorial board.

Neuroaesthetics and the state of the art

Seed Magazine has an excellent article by Mo Costandi discussing how the study of neuroaesthetics – the neuroscience of art and beauty – is really starting to take off with a dedicated research centre recently launched in London.

I love the idea of neuroaesthetics but remain a little skeptical, not least because some of the literature gives the impression that it’s revolutionising our understanding of art when psychologists have been researching it since the beginning of psychology. I’ve yet to see the ‘neuro’ aspect add anything particularly novel so far.

I’ve got a fascinating but out of print book called Cognitive Processes in the Perception of Art that has a collection of papers from a five day conference on art and cognition from 1983.

The chapters cover much of the same sort of thing that is discussed under the neuroaesthetics banner (just without the brain scans) – including methods, symbolism, visual perception, music, improvisation, aesthetics, beauty and synaesthesia.

The introduction is interesting as an overview of the fragmented history of the field, most of which seems to have been undertaken in the expectation that this was something new and exciting:

…since 1876, when Fechner initiated the empirical approach to art through his book ‘Vorschule der Aesthetik’ psychology has been characterized by different ‘schools’; there has been continual dispute about the proper subject-matter of the discipline and about the theories and methods which should be applied to it. In many cases, the various approaches – such as Behaviourism, Gestalt Theory, Psychoanalysis, Humanistic Psychology, Information Theory, and Cognitive Psychology – have made distinctive contributions to the arts. One consequence has been that particular artistic phenomena have been selectively examined and then assimilated to preferred theories and methods of working, and hence these phenomena have escaped broad and systematic investigation as distinctive phenomena in their own right. Approaches to the arts have often been superficial and fragmentary, as Kose points out in his chapter, traditional approaches to the study of art often reveal more about the workings of psychological investigation than they do about art.

I’ve still yet to see anything that advances on this position.

Furthermore, theories that simply redescribe what you’re trying to explain are generally thought to be useless and the test of a good theory is that it can make accurate predictions. Where relevant it also suggests where interventions will have predictable effects.

Consequently, I often wonder whether neuroaesthetics will ever lead to a new and innovative type of artwork or art practice.

One of the most interesting things I’ve read recently was a discussion on the empyre mailing list (thanks Julian!) with various artists discussing their work in the cognitive and neurosciences. I warn you, it’s a pain in the arse to read because it’s only available as list archives.

Nevertheless, it mentioned a piece called ‘Ghosts in the Machine’ which sounds fantastic:

Ghosts in the Machine is a generative, closed system. Random noise from a CCD camera is analyzed for patterns. An algorithm looks for patterns that match the basic geometry and physiognomy of the human face. What it actually finds are pixels on a screen forming blobs and patches of colour that have no actual relation to a real world face. They have no indexical relation to an object. They are not images of people, but another kind of image loaded with meaning, which arises accidentally, but irresistibly, from the hybrid interaction between machine and body. To all intents and purposes when these patches of pixels look like faces, they are images of faces. That such obscure images resolve themselves into faces without conscious effort, and that remain even when attending closely to them, suggests that it is paradoxically their lack of objective meaning that generates their form. It is the very ambiguity and intedeterminacy of the images that allows the brain to reconfigure them as indexical.

It’s part of the Einstein’s Brain Project which aims to explore “the notion of the brain as a real and metaphoric interface between bodies and worlds in flux, and that examines the idea of the world as a construct sustained through the neurological processes contained within the brain”.

Link to Seed article ‘Beauty and the Brain’.
Link to details of cognitive processes in art book.
Link to Einstein’s Brain Project.
Link to good neuroaesthics primer.

Pump up the vino

PsyBlog has a delightful article discussing whether louder music increases alcohol consumption. It turns out it does, and surprisingly, there seems to have been quite a few studies done to examine the effect.

One research group even did a sort of randomised controlled trial on bars and music in a fantastic real-world experiment.

One study by Gueguen et al. (2004) found that higher sound levels lead to people drinking more. In a new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Gueguen et al. (2008) visited a bar in the west of France to confirm their previous finding in a naturalistic setting. Here, they observed customers’ drinking habits across three Saturday nights, in two different bars in the city.

The level of the music was randomly manipulated to create the conditions of a true experiment. It was either at its usual volume of 72dB or turned up to 88dB. For comparison: 72db is like the sound of traffic on a busy street while 88db is like standing next to a lawnmower.

Sure enough when the music went up the beers went down, faster. On average bar-goers took 14.5 minutes to finish a 250ml (8 oz) glass of draught beer when the music was at its normal level. But this came down to just 11.5 minutes when the music was turned up. As a result, on average, during their time in the bar each participant ordered one more drink in the loud music condition than in the normal music condition.

Link to ‘Why Loud Music in Bars Increases Alcohol Consumption’.

Social influences on the beautiful face

People in close social groups, such as family and friends, were more likely to agree on the attractiveness of a face, according to an interesting study published in Perception.

It’s a novel take on face perception research, which usually implies that there are some general features of attractiveness which we all can perceive, but rarely looks at how other people can influence this.

Beauty is in the ‘we’ of the beholder: greater agreement on facial attractiveness among close relations.

Perception. 2007;36(11):1674-81.

Bronstad PM, Russell R.

Scientific research on facial attractiveness has focused primarily on elucidating universal factors to which all raters respond consistently. However, recent work has shown that there is also substantial disagreement between raters, highlighting the importance of determining how attractiveness preferences vary among different individuals. We conducted a typical attractiveness ratings study, but took the unusual step of recruiting pairs of subjects who were spouses, siblings, or close friends. The agreement between pairs of affiliated friends, siblings, and spouses was significantly greater than between pairs of strangers drawn from the same race and culture, providing evidence that facial-attractiveness preferences are socially organized.

Link to PubMed entry for study.

The divining sage

The New York Times has an interesting piece on salvia divinorum, a powerful psychedelic plant that’s legal in most countries and is widely sold on the internet.

The plant is in the same family as sage and mint and was originally used ceremonially by the Mazatec of Mexico for spiritual rituals, owing to its reality altering properties. It contains the drug Salvinorin A which is often cited as one of the most potent hallucinogenic compounds ever discovered.

It’s fascinating for a number of reasons, not least because it can completely and intensely detach the user from reality, lasts no more than 15 minutes, and works on an opioid receptor in the brain – unlike most other hallucinogens that typically affect serotonin (e.g. LSD) or glutamate (e.g. ketamine).

Unlike opiates such as heroin and morphine which mainly work on the mu opioid receptor, salvia seems to have a unique and specific affinity for the kappa opioid receptor and so has very different effects.

The NYT piece discusses its rising popularity and the prevalence of trip videos on YouTube where incapacitated users are filmed while off their heads. Apparently, it is becoming increasingly outlawed in the US at the state level and apparently the federal government are considering banning it.

I tried salvia once and found the experience very intense but quite unpleasant, mainly for the deep physical discomfort it caused (I wonder whether this is explained by evidence suggesting it also inhibits the mu opioid receptor – known to modulate pain perception). It’s also quite incapacitating and hardly seemed to qualify as a ‘recreational drug’ in any sense of the word.

Fascinating compound scientifically though, and one which is likely to teach us a great deal about the little known role of the opioid system in perception.

Link to NYT piece on salvia.

Here we are now

BBC Radio 4 have just finished broadcasting Team Spirit, a great series of five 15-minute programmes on the psychology of group dynamics by taking a look at a diverse range of teams – from paramedics to Morris dancers.

Each programme looks at specific team chosen to reflect different forms of groups dynamics, meets the people and then discusses the social processes with psychologists working in the field.

The teams selected are air-ambulance paramedics, an Antartic research team, a girls football team, a backstage theatre crew and a group of Morris dancers (non-British people: Morris dancing is an excuse for ale drinking and maid chasing thinly disguised as a folk dance tradition).

It’s a fun and informative ‘bite-size’ series presented by the faultless Claudia Hammond. It’s archived online but only as realaudio streams, so no podcasts I’m afraid but definitely worth checking out.

Link to BBC Radio 4 Team Spirit series.

Erotic self-stimulation and brain implants

A 48-year-old woman with a stimulating electrode implanted in her right ventral thalamus started to compulsively self-stimulate when she discovered that it could produce erotic sensations.

This is a report from the early days of deep brain stimulation, way back in 1986, from an article for the medical journal Pain which discussed some unintended side-effects from one patient’s DBS treatment for chronic pain.

Soon after insertion of the nVPL electrode, the patient noted that stimulation also produced erotic sensations. This pleasurable response was heightened by continuous stimulation at 75% maximal amplitude, frequently augmented by short bursts at maximal amplitude. Though sexual arousal was prominent, no orgasm occurred with these brief increases in stimulation intensity. Despite several episodes of paroxysmal atrial tachycardia [heart disturbance] and development of adverse behavioural and neurological symptoms during maximal stimulation, compulsive use of the stimulator developed.

At its most frequent, the patient self-stimulated throughout the day, neglecting personal hygiene and family commitments. A chronic ulceration developed at the tip of the finger used to adjust the amplitude dial and she frequently tampered with the device in an effort to increase the stimulation amplitude. At times, she implored her to limit her access to the stimulator, each time demanding its return after a short hiatus. During the past two years, compulsive use has become associated with frequent attacks of anxiety, depersonalization, periods of psychogenic polydipsia and virtually complete inactivity.

Similar cases are still being reported today. A 2005 case report described a gentleman who had a DBS electrode inserted into the right subthalamic nucleus to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. He found that switching the device on and off produced a ‘morphine like’ sensation that he became quite fond of.

This effect was first discovered in humans in the early 1960s, when controversial psychiatrist Robert Heath reported on two cases of people with a number of electrodes implanted in the brain, including some in similar areas to the patients mentioned above.

In 1972, he undertook a notorious study where he implanted electrodes into the brain of a consenting 24-year-old gay male who had been repeatedly hospitalized for chronic suicidal depression and found to have temporal lobe epilepsy.

The brain implant was specifically introduced for non-sexual reasons but Heath decided to test whether pleasurable brain stimulation would encourage the man, known only as B-19, to engage in heterosexual sexual activity with a prostitute.

The study was a ‘success’ but has become infamous as one of the more distasteful episodes in the history of ‘gay conversion therapy’, which is quite hard going in a field that is well-known for its distasteful episodes.

Heath was apparently funded by the CIA as part of their abortive research programme into ‘mind control’ techniques, but I can’t find any reliable reference for that, so it might need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Link to paper ‘Chronic Thalamic Self-Stimulation’.
Link to PubMed entry for paper.
Link to Heath ‘gay brain stimulation’ study.
Link to doi link for same.

Reminiscence competition winner

Congratulations to Jon C, the winner of the tickets to see Reminiscence, which closes at the end of this week on Saturday September 20th.

Just a last word on the play to say many thanks to everyone who came along to the post-show science forum last Sunday, it was a pleasure debating with you, and just a reminder that there’s another one after the matinee performance this Wednesday as well.

Christian has posted a brief write-up of the show where he discusses some of the ideas behind it and also describes me as “mesmerisingly encyclopedic”, which I’m guessing is a journalistic euphemism for “a bit geeky”.

Link to BPSRD write-up of Reminiscence.
Link to play website.

Encephalon 54 is coming home

The 54th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just arrived, this fortnight hosted by its originator at the Neurophilosophy blog.

A couple of my favourites include an article by Neuronism on how IBM’s ‘Blue Brain’ large scale neural simulator is showing 40hz gamma band oscillations (oh my God – it’s becoming conscious. To the bunkers!), and another from The Neurocritic on how viewing beautiful artwork reduces the perception of pain.

The Neurocritic piece also finishes on the fantastic line “Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, it modulates pain-related activity in the anterior cingulate cortex”.

There’s plenty more news, new material and discussion from the last two weeks in mind and brain science, so do check it out.

Link to Encephalon 54.

Songs of Couch and Consultation

couchi.jpg“Songs of Couch and Consultation” is a 1961 novelty album of songs about the psychiatric profession by folksinger Katie Lee (who, according to Utah Philips, went on to become an environmental activist and one of the founders of EarthFirst!). The songs are reported to be in dubious taste, but you can hear a sample of three here, including MP3s of “Will to fail” (“I secretly am enjoying myself / while slowly i’m destroying myself”!) and the marvellous big band feeling of “Repressed Hostility Blues”.

link Cover art of Katie Lee’s “Songs of Couch and Consultation”.
link WFMU blog post on the album, including MP3s.

Roots of neuroscience in the Bible and Talmud

The July issue of Neurosurgery had a fantastic article that discusses where the brain, nervous system and neurological illness are mentioned in the Bible and Talmud.

In some places the nervous system is specifically mentioned, such as where the Bible and Talmud specifically prohibit eating the sciatic nerve from slaughtered animals apparently in deference to the fact that Jacob is described as having a sciatic nerve injury in Genesis.

The article also discusses various forms of neurological illness that appear. Not all the cases are clear cut, and the article carefully examines where historians have suggested specific incidences may have been describing neurological disorders.

However, there are clear references to early forms of neurosurgery, and the piece makes this interesting aside on the Roman emperor Titus:

Interestingly, it is said that Titus (AD 39–81), who crushed Jewish rebellion with brutality and burned the Temple of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Fig. 6), underwent trephination of his cranium for chronic headache (possibly tinnitus) and, during this procedure, in which he lost his life, a tumor was found that resembled a sparrow or swallow and was two selas in weight. The sela coin was approximately one-third the width of a hand and was, interestingly, the size of the hole made with the aforementioned trephination tool. Some have posited that, based on the weight and size of such a mass, the differential diagnosis would include a hemangioma, meningioma, andacoustic neuroma. Multiple cranial trephinations aredescribed as a treatment for seizure disorders in the Talmud (Hullin 57a).

Another bit that caught my eye was the possible description of the effects of stroke in Psalm 137: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy”.

Along with Matthew Wilder’s 80s hit Break My Stride, Psalm 137 is the basis for the song Jerusalem by Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu.

Which, as far as I know, makes Matisyahu the only person to have written a track that makes a combined tribute to 80s synth-reggae, a Biblical verse about the holy city of Jerusalem and the cerebro vascular accident.

By the way, the image on the left is a medieval depiction of Cain smiting Abel through the grisly and fatal act of giving him a traumatic brain injury. And they say TV makes kids violent.

Link to Neurosurgery article.
Link to PubMed entry for same.

A history of the history of madness

Madness and Civilization was a hugely influential book by the French post-modernist philosopher Michel Foucault and is often cited as a key ‘anti-psychiatry’ text owing to its claim that the modern concept of madness was an Enlightenment idea developed to allow the confinement of people that others in society found unacceptable.

What I wasn’t aware of is that Madness and Civilization is actually a cut-down translation of the original French text where most of the references to source material remained untranslated.

A full translation, renamed with its correct title History of Madness, was released last year and was given a damning review in The Times by medical historian Andrew Scull who derided Foucault’s “isolation from the world of facts and scholarship”.

Actually, Foucault’s major claim that 17th Europe undertook the “great confinement” of the mad through the building of asylums has been debunked before. The much-missed medical historian Roy Porter pointed out that France was the only country in Europe to centralise its administration of services for the ‘pauper madman’ while other countries didn’t typically have any legislation in place until the 19th century.

I was also interested in Scull’s debunking of the myth that visitors could pay to view the patients of London’s ‘Bedlam‘ Hospital:

Foucault alleges, for example, that the 1815–16 House of Commons inquiry into the state of England’s madhouses revealed that Bedlam (Bethlem) placed its inmates on public display every Sunday, and charged a penny a time for the privilege of viewing them to some 96,000 sightseers a year. In reality, the reports of the inquiry contain no such claims. This is not surprising: public visitation (which had not been confined to Sundays in any event) had been banned by Bethlem Royal Hospital’s governors in 1770, and even before then the tales of a fixed admission fee turn out to be apocryphal.

I looked this up in Russell’s Scenes From Bedlam (ISBN 1873853394) that confirms the ban on visitation in 1770, but does make reference to paying visitors, although it gives the impression that the arrangement was much more ad-hoc than is commonly assumed and casts doubt on the huge figures Foucault quotes.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t reference any historical documents on the matter, and neither does any other book I have, so I’ll have to do further investigation.

However, this is just one point among many where Scull notes that with the benefit of the fully translated version, we can see that Foucault’s research is just not up to scratch and doesn’t support his major historical claims.

But it’s probably worth saying that Foucault’s other major idea, that madness is not a fixed entity but is defined as much socially and politically as in medical terms is still as valid today. Particularly in an era where we are increasingly medicalising what we previously considered unfortunate but non-medical problems and stresses.

Link to Times article ‘The fictions of Foucault’s scholarship’.