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INA Colloquium 2019, Chennai

A Report by Dr. Subbulakshmi Natarajan, MBBS, DCN (Lond), FRCP (Edin), Clinical Neuroscientist & Science Writer.

December brings the promise of pleasant, cool days to Chennai, south India, along with the annual Indian classical music and dance festivals and church choral music, to mark a month-long atmosphere of peace, joy and festivity.  It was in this part of the year, in the serenity of the colonial era milieu of Madras Club, that an international cast of experts discussed the brain, mind and their rich interface, sharing the global trends in the field and their individual and team experiences at the exclusive closed door meeting (by invitation) of the International Neuropsychiatric Association. The theme of the INA Colloquium 2019 was “New Horizons in Neuropsychiatry’ 

Prof. Ennapadam S Krishnamoorthy, the INA President, extended a warm welcome. It was an honour to have the inaugural President of INA , Prof. Colin Shapiro (1998-2002) and INA’s third President , Prof. Perminder Sachdev (2004-2006)  as colloquium faculty. Other eminent, senior members of INA also comprised the colloquium faculty.

Prof. Krishnamoorthy called upon faculty members to light the ‘Lamp of Knowledge’ , to the background chant to Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning. “The overall  theme ‘Brain and Behaviour’ belongs to all present,” he said and announced that those attending the colloquium could register free for a year to become members of INA, and receive ‘the INA pin’ In the hands of the experts and over several decades, the complexities of  mind, brain and behaviour captured separately by the specialities of  Neurology and Psychiatry, have been brought together in a holistic manner under the INA banner, much to the benefit of Neuroscience, the clinician and the patient. It was keenly felt that this knowledge deserved to be shared by a wider medical fraternity towards global excellence in brain and mind healthcare and research. 

The colloquium was sponsored by the ever-flowing generosity of the TS Srinivasan family. The handsome endowment towards this was in honour of the philanthropist industrialist, TS Srinivasan.

Inaugural Address

Prof ES Krishnamoorthy opened the scientific session with  ‘Innovation: An Integrated Care Model in Neuropsychiatry’  as  practiced in the Buddhi Clinic, Chennai,  founded by him in 2010. The Integrated Brain and Mind care at Buddhi Clinic , towards ‘Restoration, Rehabilitation and Rejuvenation ‘ has over the years  developed protocols and procedures which make them sustainable, replicable and measurable. More gratifying is the qualitative measure of patient response. Here, CAM enjoys a common platform with Modern Neuropsychiatry and Neurorehabilitation.

Presidential Session

Perminder Sachdev, Professor of Neuropsychiatry at UNSW, Co-Director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW, Australia, took us through the exciting present day ‘Biomarker Approach to the Diagnosis of Dementia’, and the dilemmas in this unrelenting quest for the Holy Grail. The heterogeneous presentation of person-specific contribution of neuropathologies to cognitive loss  (more so in  old age), makes the search for an AD biomarker elusive.  It is only with pooling of multiple data that we can hope to arrive at a biomarker complex to detect at the pre-AD phase. NIA AA has proposed an effective Research Framework for AD biomarker grouping AT(N)  (Jack C et al, 2018). He touched on the consensus study (VICCCS) on the vascular causes of dementia, for which he was an international collaborator along with two other speakers, Prof. Ingmar Skoog and Prof. Raj Kalaria.

Raj Kalaria , Professor of Neuropathology, Newcastle University, UK shared with us his twenty- year experience and  heading the Neurovascular Group at the Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle,  in ‘the Cognitive Function after Stroke’ ( CogFAST) study. Being a strong proponent of the concept of cognitive decline due to vascular causes, he observed that the understanding of lifestyle diseases and the preventable nature of the risk factors led to a renewed interest in refinement and classification of vascular dementias (VaD). It resulted in ‘Vascular Impairment of Cognition Classification Consensus Study (VICCCS)’, with international collaborators, on sensitive and specific clinical and research criteria to diagnose the earliest phase of Vascular Cognitive Impairment (VCI). He went on to say that cerebral vessel disease may be an under-recognised risk factor for AD dementia-the vascular pathology in AD is arteriosclerosis and capillary degeneration. Changes in vessel wall causes chronic hypoperfusive state (oligaemia) and the white matter changes and may result in either stroke or degeneration (to AD) or in a mixed type which includes both. 

Epilepsy and Behaviour  – Learning through case studies

This session saw four interesting presentations by leading Indian experts.

The Many Ramifications of Post-ictal Psychosis

 Bindu Menon, Professor and Head of Dept. of Neurology, Apollo Specialty Hospital, Nellore, south India, was a case based presentation.  A 38 year lady, single, living with her parents, diagnosed as complex partial seizures with secondary generalization, based on clinical, EEG and imaging parameters. She was on optimum dose of levetiracetem, with a history of poor drug adherence and with recurrent episodes. She presented  in a confused, agitated state, with auditory and visual hallucinations and with persecutory delusions and aggressive behaviour. Her mother reported a cluster of seizures two days prior to this admission and reported that she had had two similar bizarre episodes earlier. Dr. Menon took us through the differential diagnosis of such a presentation and elegantly argued her opting for Post-ictal Psychosis (PIP), based on Logsdail and Toone criteria.  

Epilepsy and Neurodisability

Prof. Nirmal Surya, Consultant Neurophysician, Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences, shared his experience in neurorehabilitation of  young patients with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD)  with associated epilepsy at the Epilepsy Foundation Centre and his rural community-based outreach programmes. His multidisciplinary team offers management of the physical, cognitive, language, psychosocial and behavioural problems of these patients.  He presented video clips of 4 cases, with various levels and types of disability. The lack of awareness, the continuing stigma attached to epilepsy and all forms of disability, poor availability and accessibility of rehabilitation centres, and the out-of-pocket expenditure are major concerns in India

Paediatric Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures

Dr.  Praveen Kumar Jakati,  Consultant Child and  Adolescent Psychiatrist, Institute of Neuroscience, Kolkata, India-spoke on Paediatric Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures PNES, and showed video- EEGs of typical episodes in a few patients. Comprehensive psychiatric assessment points to a conversion disorder or occasionally a dissociative disorder. Gold standard for diagnosis is a prolonged video EEG. Early recognition of PNES and early intervention offers the best results

Epilepsy and Behaviour: the gentle overlap

Prof Manjari Tripati, Head of Dept. of Neurology, AIIMS, Delhi  outlined  the ‘Good, Bad and the Ugly’ in surgical intervention for  intractable epilepsy in her study of over 200 cases in the dedicated epilepsy neurosurgical dept. of AIIMS, Delhi.  The ‘good’ was the 10-fold improvement in the seizure episodes and significant improvement clinically and on the Child Behaviour Checklist, and Paediatric Quality of Life Measure The ‘ugly’ were two patients, both teenage boys, who underwent posterior temporo-parietal resections; one became seizure- free following surgery, the other continued to have about 4 seizures a month.  In both cases, post operative ASD was diagnosed, with severe behavioural  problems. There was  little improvement  after therapies over several years.

Why is ASD in such cases underreported in world literature? The posterior brain location of both these lesions could perhaps account for the post-op ASD, as the parieto-occipital region represents ‘autistic functionality’ and ‘theory of mind’.   

Stand ups:

‘If you have anything interesting to say, you must be able to convey it within eight minutes- these are what these stand ups are about, following which they will be open  for discussion’. The 4  Buddhi team members were game for the challenge !

Mr. Vivek Misra, Neuroscientist & Neuromodulation consultant of the Buddhi team spoke on Integrating Neuromodulation in a Multidisciplinary Care Paradigm. He contributes to the neuromodulation with brain  stimulation with repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). He outlined  the beneficial effects of rTMS on the Parkinson’s disease patients at Buddhi Clinic and discussed future plans for brain stimulation in the lab.  rTMS not only improves the motor performance but also the cognitive and behavioural outcomes- 20 sessions bilateral motor area stimulated  following the standard protocol  showed benefit  not only on the UPDRS scale but also showed progressive improvement on MoCA and NPI assessment at baseline, mid treatment and end of brain stimulation, WHOQOL BREF showed positive scores on the social domain. The audience suggested more cases in the series under controlled conditions are required to launch the study on a research basis.

Dr. VG Srivatsa, Neuropsychiatrist presented on  intractable behavioural difficulties, anxiety, aggression, below average intelligence  in a 14 year old treated with a multidisciplinary  integrated approach including neurodevelopmental therapy, behavioural therapy , family focused therapy and  rTMS.  It was a diagnostic dilemma. The Buddhi clinic team came to a diagnosis of ASD with intellectual disability and severe anxiety state.  Rapidly escalating anxiety and panic in the wake of below average intelligence, with the added effect of early life trauma was  suggested by two experts reviewing the case who ruled out autism.

Indhu Rajagopal, Clinical Psychologist, Buddhi clinic 

Case presentation was of  a 17 year old girl Treatment-resistant  depression following a single seizure – found with LOC, vomited once, aggressive on admission, EEG normal initially, subsequent prolonged  EEG showed bilateral temporo-parietal and occipital epileptiform activity . CT brain normal, stressors at school and home with maladaptive responses. History of recurrent attacks of migraine.Patient was treated  as a case of seizure disorder with Levetiracetam and Clobazam. Subsequently, Levetiracetam was tapered and Lamotrigine introduced, with some improvement all round. Paroxetime CR was continued.

The final diagnosis was  AED –induced mood and anxiety disorder with accompanying insomnia.

Dr. Krishnaswamy Viswanathan, Senior Neurosurgeon – is Director of the Buddhi Clinic at Porur. He operates at Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Centre- He is an MRCS Edinburgh, and received special training in DBS at the Sai Baba Hospital at Whitefield, Bengaluru. 

He explained the procedure for DBS electrode implantation in the brain,   in some detail and the brain stimulation. The videograph, of his patient, an elderly male with dystonia, pre and post operative, and following three months of therapy, was impressive. 

Clinical Neuropsychiatry- The Child

Prof. Valsa Eapen, Chair, Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Australia elaborated on ‘The Burden of Neurodevelopmental Disability- Call for Action’ Globally NDD affects 52.9 million children, accounting for 29.3 million years lived in disability; and 23% of 2-9year olds.  She outlined ‘A New- to- World Integrated Approach’ to Child Development covering the first 2000 days. Each stage of integrated service delivery needs to build on to the next a form of ‘cumulative buffering’ to counter cumulative risks. New South Wales Child Development Study is ‘A Longitudinal, Multiagency, Trans-generational Record Linkage Study’ in which 77, 062 children and their parents are under review- Carr et al 2019. The message of hope is that advances in Neuroscience, molecular biology, genomics and the Behavioural and Social Sciences could be leveraged to catalyse innovative policies and practices across sectors.

KP Vinayan  Prof. and Head, Dept. of  Paediatric Neurology, Amritha Advanced Centre for Epilepsy,  Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, Kerala demystified ‘Developmental Encephalopathies: A New Terminology or a Conceptual Progress?’ He broke down the elements in the most recent International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) Commission Report definition of Epileptic Encephalopathies. There is an underlying brain pathology, either congenital or acquired. The epileptic activity itself contributes to severe cognitive and behavioural deficits which is well beyond what might be expected from the underlying brain pathology and these impairments can worsen over time. Treatment of the seizures or EEG abnormalities, a herculean task in this group, would be expected to improve the cognitive and behavioural deficits and also reduce the seizures. He discussed Lennox- Gastaut syndrome and Davert syndrome as examples.

Keynote Address:

Mustafa M. Hussain, Prof. of Neurology, Psychiatry and Internal Medicine , Director Neuromodulation and Therapeutics, UT Southwestern Medical Centre, Dallas, USA, recounted his over twenty years experience in neuromodulation procedures in ‘Dawn of a New Era in Depression’ The remarkable value of ECT in depression cannot be underestimated, he said. However, the more modern Magnetic Seizure Therapy enters the brain unimpeded, the seizure is focal, mild and only on the targeted regions, there is better control over the induced seizure, it does not affect cortical regions responsible for cognitive side effects, and the recovery after a session is quick.  The induced seizure modulates the neuronal activity within the brain to effect change. He confessed that Neuromodulation is  expensive therapy, and if Fluoxetine could do the job, he would go for it. 

Clinical Neuropsychiatry : The Adult 

Colin Shapiro, Professor, Dept of Psychiatry and Ophthalmology, University of Toronto, Canada Director, International Sleep Clinic spoke on ‘Sleep and the Expansion of Neuropsychiatry’ with conviction that “Every psychiatrist must be doing a sleep study on every patient they see!” There may be an underlying history of sexual abuse or PTSD. Sleep deprivation can have  its impact on many psychiatric conditions, depression in particular, and anxiety, and lead to excessive dependence on sleeping dose medication, and to drug and alcohol abuse. Sleep apnoea is more common than estimated. Non-communicable diseases may be exacerbated due to sleep deprivation.    Polysomnography   provides the critical information on sleep disorders. The factors to be studied in a sleep EEG record are

  • 1. Sleep continuity disturbances
  • 2. Slow wave sleep deficit
  • 3. REM sleep disorder
  • 4. Short sleep duration. 

Prof Niruj Agrawal, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist and Hon. Senior Lecturer, St George’s Hospital, London, dealt with the topic Dementia following Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – a reality. After TBI or repetitive injury as in contact sports, a gap of several decades, may be followed by aggressive behaviour, cognitive decline and  memory deficit. The inflammation following TBI, the white matter changes, brain atrophy and subsequent ‘immunotoxicity’, can trigger a progressive neurological degeneration, a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. There is a progressive increase primarily of phosphorylated tau, and also of amyloid beta and alpha synuclein associated with a clinical presentation of  Alzheimer’s  disease, fronto-temporal dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

Neurotheology- A Thought Leadership Session

Dr Sudhir Shah, Neurologist, Ahmedabad,   has a regular consulting clinic, but his unique research interest borders on Neurotheology, dipping into the neural correlates of religious and spiritual belief. He elaborated on ‘Happiness, Meditation and the Brain’ – the merits of positive emotions and the role of gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, appreciation of others and acceptance of what cannot be changed, the ancient day wisdom for physical, mental and psychological well-being.  “We are our own enemies when negative emotions take over” he emphasized. The four paths of yoga of karma, gnana, bhakthi and the classical raja yoga help in control of the mind.  He presented functional neuroimaging scans of studies (in some of which he was part of the study group) where meditation activates the neural structures  involved in attention and control of the autonomic nervous system and emotions positive or negative show  response in the limbic areas. 

Biological Psychiatry:

Prathima Murthy Prof. and Head, Dept.of Psychiatry- Chief of De-addiction Services, NIMHANS, Benguluru, when faced with the question Neurostimulation for Addictive Disorders, Fad or Fact? started her talk by confessing “I am a clinician and a ‘mechanistic agnostic’, but if it helps my patient, I am willing to go along with it”. She went on to describe the various stimulation modalities used on her patients, and the human research studies conducted in her lab on  some newer modalities.  Addictive drugs cause activation of reward pathways. Biological, sociological and psychological factors influence the vulnerable. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is safe , employs low intensity current, is non-invasive, and achieves neuronal sensitivity through weak intensity current stimulation. Modulation of prefrontal cortical excitability with tDCS may reduce alcohol craving and cue-reactivity. Periodic follow up is required as the effect of the neuromodulation wanes over time.

Dr. Adith Mohan, CheBA, Sydney, Australia elaborated on the ‘Psychosis of Suspected Autoimmune Origin- proposed model for co-ordinated clinical care at the Neuropsychiatric Institute, Sydney’. He opened his talk quoting  Susannah Cahalan  who describes her experience of the condition and recovery  in her book  ‘Brain on Fire’ (2018) where she agonises  on  “How many people currently are in psychiatric wards and nursing homes denied the relatively simple cure of steroids, plasma exchange, (or) more intense immunotherapy?”. What is important is to pick these patients early clinically, and treat, the red flags being- 1st week of viral prodrome ;1-2 weeks of psychotic symptoms, delusions, hallucinations, mania, agitation, speech changes, disorganized thinking, catatonia , insomnia,  and often seizures; weeks to months of neurological complications, movement abnormalities, dysautonomia, hypoventilation and seizures, coma. This is the inflammatory phase and tapers, followed by months to years of prolonged deficits- executive dysfunction, impulsivity, disinhibition, and sleep abnormalities. The pathomechanism: Antibodies of IgG class targeting  NMDAR subunits on dendritic clusters. 40 % triggers are paraneoplastic (ovarian teratoma)-  As NMS is a major risk, one  must be  wary of use of antipsychotics.

Prof.Krishnamoorthy quoted the example of the 13 year female patient in his  Buddhi clinic  in 2013, with  bizarre,  acquired, acute behavioural psychosis and cognitive deficit. Under the guidance of Prof. Angela Vincent, the patient tested positive for NMDA receptor antibodies and recovered well with a course of Methylprednisolone, with a relapse after a few years. It is  important to create awareness among Psychiatrists  when to suspect autoimmune psychosis, a reversible condition.

Dr Mohan suggested the latest  article underlining the red flags –  ‘Autoimmune Psychosis – an international consensus on an approach to the diagnosis and management of psychosis of suspected autoimmune origin’ – Thomas Pollak,  Lancet Psychiatry,  Nov 2019 . 

John P John, Prof of Psychiatry, NIMHANS , has a special research interest in  ‘Multimodal brain imaging in Schizophrenia and Dementia’. The Multi- modal Brain Imaging Analytic Lab (MBIAL) of NIMHANS has state of the art equipment, funded by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. The research is conducted with the collaboration of the DST-sponsored clinical group at NIMHANS. One test for the schizophrenia participant in the research was the semantic word fluency test (word generation) against repeating  what is produced on the screen. In this task, activation is as important as is deactivation. In normal subject, anterior prefrontal activation is accompanied by posterior brain deactivation.  In the patient of schizophrenia, there is less deactivation of posterior brain. There is hyperconnectivity in Default mode network (DMN) in schizophrenia and  a positive relation between DMN connectivity and the psychotic symptoms. (Whitfield Gabrieli et al, PNAS, 2009). The reason why the  DMN is  of particular relevance in the study of dementia is because these areas are where AB amyloid is deposited even in early MCI. The DMN shows less connectivity.

Dementia:

Ingmar Skoog, Prof of Psychiatry, University of Gothenburg, Director, Centre for Health and Ageing and  Leader for the Neuroepidemiology Unit, Gothenburg,  Sweden stressed  that  the first biomarker appearance and preclinical AD can have a gap of 20 years,  the order  being CSF abeta , PET amyloid, CSF tau, PET tau, MRI atrophy, memory symptoms, MCI, Dementia – ( ‘Temporal ordering of the pathological processes of AD’. Jack et al, Lancet, 2013.)  Prof. Skoog has a large series  of CSF studies,  as the study participants give consent for lumbar puncture and even for a follow up study. Other concomitant  pathological markers in CSF he has  studied in 85 year olds: total tau a biomarker for neuronal damage; neurogranin a marker for synaptic degeneration, a post synaptic protein, CSF levels of which increase significantly in MCI and AD; phospho tau 18, a marker for tangle pathology, phosphorylation of tau appearing to be  specific to AD, showing a 2-3-fold increase in CSF; YKL -40, a marker for reactive astrocytosis, increase of which coccurs in the CSF in AD and FTD.

Mathew Varghese, Prof. of Psychiatry, Geriatric Dept., NIMHANS spoke on the ‘Psychosocial Interventions in Dementia’ with particular reference to the Indian scenario and as practiced in his department. He emphasised that in India it is mainly informal caregiving at home. Education of the caregivers with the ABC symptoms of dementia, namely problems with activities of daily living (ADL) and the behavioural  and cognitive symptoms, which require attention is provided in the clinic through family counseling. The need for progressive coping is underlined. The care recommended is a whole -day structured activity schedule, simple, tasks, keeping the general health, nutrition and exercise of the patient in mind, in a safe environment, preserving the dignity of the patient and avoiding confrontation. Prof. Varghese has been involved in modules for dementia healthcare from 2003. Agencies and Societies  providing service are ARDSI (the Indian chapter of ADI),  HelpAge India and Senior Citizens Forum. The Mental Healthcare Act- has outlined some positive steps towards a national level preparedness.  National Health Mission, the flagship programme of GoI, is in the process of preparing district clinic manuals for rehabilitation centres.

Amithaba  Ghosh, Consultant Neurologist from Kolkata, spoke about Frontotemporal dementia in the Indian setting presenting unique biological, cognitive, behavioural and psychosocial data from this setting. 

The impressive cast of Indian chairpersons for the colloquium included Professors :

  • Lakshminarasimhan R, Chennai
  • Mehndiratta MM, Delhi
  • Bharat Srikala, Bangalore
  • Bhattacharya Kalyan, Kolkata,  
  • Padmavathi R, Chennai, 
  • Lakshminarayanan R, Chennai, 
  • Sudhakar TP, Tirupathi, 
  • Thara R, Chennai,
  • Vijayakumar Lakshmi, Chennai.  

Chennai being a hub of Indian Neuroscience, it does not stop with the advantage of inviting local experts, but for opting for among the best in the field.

In all the INA Colloquium was a meeting of minds, Western & Eastern, modern scientific and ancient integrative, discussing many aspects of the brain and mind interface.   Truly a feast for the brain, mind & soul, with the wonderful fusion cuisine of Madras Club satisfying also the palate. 

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The Curious Case of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh is one among many famous personalities in history who have rightly or wrongly been credited with having suffered from epilepsy. It seems fairly clear that Vincent van Gogh did suffer from symptoms of brain and mind; seizures, hallucinations, mood swings and explosive impulsive behavior that have been variously attributed to bipolar disorder, Meniere’s disease and interestingly, personality features linked with epilepsy.

Van Gogh was not just a productive painter (over 2000 works in a relatively short lifetime); he was a very prolific letter writer. Indeed, in one very productive period in Arles (1888-1889) he is believed to have produced 200 paintings and 200 watercolors, a painting every 36 hours; he also managed to write to his brother Theo, an art dealer in Paris, and to fellow impressionists, 200 letters filling 1700 pages, the shortest six pages long.

van Gogh was probably hypergraphic, both in letter and painting, the latter having been described as a manifestation of hypergraphia by Michael Trimble, the eminent London-based Behavioral Neurologist. van Gogh had a history of seizures, probably even experiencing one while painting the portrait “Over the Ravine” revealed in the rough brush strokes and resulting in a torn canvas.

He also probably demonstrated other traits of the Geschwind Syndrome: intense mood swings, with irritability and anger; and a spectrum of sexual behavior (hyposexuality, hypersexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality). The last (among others) was with Paul Gauguin, in an intense argument with whom he experienced hallucinations (a voice that asked him to kill).

Provoked to be aggressive, he then experienced a biblical injunction “And if thine offend thee, pluck it out” and turned the razor, famously, on to his own ear (self portrait with a bandaged ear).

Indeed, his relationship with Gauguin was typically intense. van Gogh was observed by Gauguin to experience difficulty in terminating arguments and discussions (emotional stickiness). Another intense argument is thought to have resulted in van Gogh’s suicide: he threatened his physician with a pistol, was rebuffed, left the office, and shot himself in the chest.

He died two days later. It is noteworthy that van Gogh was the son of a preacher and started his life as one (probable hyper-religiosity). Indeed, it has been proposed by the neurologist and art scholar Prof. Khoshbin that van Gogh had all the five core traits of Geschwind Syndrome ( http://goo.gl/VyjxzK ). His extraordinary creativity and inspired genius makes his case all the more curious, indeed!

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The Quintessential Rational Mind

The day of Vaisakh Purnima (May 27 this year), is significant for three reasons. It was on this day that Gautama Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha at Lumbini in Nepal in 560 B.C; the day when he attained enlightenment at Gaya in India; and the day he attained Nirvana (Unity with the Absolute) in 480 B.C. It is, therefore, observed as Buddha Purnima, worldwide. To mark this day in 2010, we examine the rational mind, as conceived by Buddha.

It has become fashionable and commonplace to associate Buddhism with the metaphysical. This is in stark contrast with Buddha’s emphasis on rational thought and insistence on empirical verification. He encouraged the development of theories that were verifiable and was strongly opposed to dogma, which he viewed as an impediment to the truth. To him the truth was supreme, and ideas that hinder the discovery of truth best avoided. He believed in full freedom in thought and action; “the gates of freedom will cease to be gates, if people start clinging to the gates.”

Buddha also had very interesting, remarkably contemporary views on the mind and some of these are enumerated below.

On Thoughts and Ideas – The very first verse of the Dhammapada translates as“you are nothing but your mind”, based on which, “Sarvam Buddhimayam Jagat” has been proposed. The word used by Buddha ‘ mana’ translates both as thoughts and as mind, and can be interpreted to mean the brain. Buddha’s emphasis is on the flow of thoughts and the continuous change in the thinking process. In his concept, ideas are not constant, they change all the time. Ideas have no independent origination; they have ideas preceding and following them. Consequently, all ideas are interrelated and there are no stand alone or absolute ideas. The thinker, the thought and the concepts therein cannot be separated. Interestingly, this concept has parallels in modern psychiatry. A primary delusion, a first rank symptom of Schizophrenia is said to arise when the person, following a “delusional mood” has a thought “out of the blue” and “without antecedents”. To have such a thought that has no thoughts preceding it, and possibly therefore no basis in fact, was abnormal to the Buddha, and remains so in modern concept.

On Perception Both the Surangama Sutra and the Lankavatra Sutra attribute perception, physical and emotional, to the mind. “Both delusion and enlightenment originate within the mind and every existence or phenomenon arise from the functions of the mind.” The Surangama Sutra poses an interesting question: “A man opens his hand and the mind perceives it; but what is it that moves? Is it the mind, or is it the hand? Or is it neither of them? If the hand moves then the mind moves accordingly, and vice versa; but the moving mind is only a superficial appearance of mind”. According to the Buddha, all perception had basis within oneself. This concept of the Buddha has neuro-scientific underpinnings. If one were to replace the “mind” as Buddha called it, with “brain” as he probably meant, and is contemporary concept; that all our perception and action has basis in the brain, is truism. Prof. VS Ramachandran has described in his book Phantoms in the Brain, novel representation areas for human body parts that have been amputated, developing in the brain.

This illustration leads to another important question, namely, what is ‘me’ and what is ‘mine’? Buddha, through fables, encourages us to think about this existential dilemma. The parable is about a man who takes shelter in an abandoned structure on a stormy night. Sitting in a corner of a dilapidated room he sees around midnight, a demon enter, with a corpse. The demon leaves the corpse on the floor; suddenly another demon appears and claims the corpse. Both demons turn to the man and ask him to decide on the ownership of the corpse. Being truthful, he indicates he saw the first demon bring in the corpse. On hearing this, the second demon is enraged, tears away and eats the hand of the unfortunate man, which the first demon, immediately replaces with the one taken from the corpse. After the demons leave, the man wonders and thinks aloud, “the replaced hand is ‘mine’ but is it ‘me’?

Again, the questions raised have neuro-scientific relevance. After damaging physical trauma, and transplants, it is well reported that people sometimes feel dissociated from their new organs. Indeed, having an organ replaced can be a life-changing experience. At another level, damage to the brain, the parietal lobe in particular, can result in the sufferer neglecting his body parts, as he does not recognise them as his own. The phenomenon of anosognosia, leading to neglect of one half of the body (hemi-neglect), is a well described phenomenon after a stroke. Here, the person sees the paralysed limb lying beside him on the bed, but is unable to recognise it as his own.

Buddha did, therefore, begin the mind-matter debate much before it became fashionable in contemporary philosophy. He placed human emotion firmly within the organ he referred to as the mind, which we now understand to be the brain. His statement – “If we learn that there is no world of delusion outside the mind, the bewildered mind becomes clear” – is remarkably accurate.

On Perception and Memory

Buddha made a distinction between the flow of thoughts and the stock of memory influencing our perception. In his view our perceptions are influenced by our memory. Thus we view the present through the coloured glass of past experience and do not see things as they exist or as they are constituted. When a person perceives an object, both the memory of the same or similar object and the feelings the person had on the earlier occasion are rekindled. Moreover, comparisons are made between imaginary constructions of the object and the object itself. However, this distinction between stock and flow is more analytical than exclusive. Indeed, stock and flow interact all the time.

This view mirrors our current understanding of how the limbic system in the brain works. It has been proposed that the hippocampus is the storehouse of memories. Adjacent and connected to it by a chemical rich neural network is the amygdala, an organ deeply concerned with human emotion.

Any external stimulus results in activation of both organs; thus when a person sees a snake, his memory (and learning) tell him that it could be dangerous, and he experiences fear as a consequence. Memory and emotion are therefore in continuous interplay, as conceived by Buddha.

The Rational Mind

Buddha’s understanding of the human mind (and brain) was unique; both rational and contemporary. He encouraged debate and discourse; raised questions more often than he provided answers; encouraging his followers to think like him, with freedom. He recognised the pitfalls of blind faith, unquestioning belief and intolerance of contradictory ideas. He laid emphasis on empirical verification and on understanding the world, as it is and as it is constituted. Indeed, through his radical empiricism, he laid the foundations of scientific spirit and enquiry 2500 years ago. His was the quintessential rational mind.

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Temperamental, Indeed

Life with my pet canines is not just joyful and entertaining; it reveals to me each day, profound neuro-scientific insights. Carlo, my German Shepherd, is a classic example of his breed; in looks and temperament. A “Master’s” dog, his life revolves around my routines. A glance in his direction, slight change in tone, low whistle, all will ensure his immediate compliance with “his Master’s” desires. Obedient and devoted to a fault, Carlo is also extremely high strung and anxious, alert to every change in his environment, and protective of it; so much so that I rarely catch him in fitful slumber. Blessed with an uncanny sixth sense for “his Master”, a trait that his breed is famous for, Carlo actually heads for the gate, minutes before my arrival at home from work. Not one to break rules, he will not enter a room or defile a piece of furniture, once forbidden. Natty and fastidious about his appearance, he remains shiny coated through the week, not an ounce of dirt on him, nor a doggy odour.

Unpredictable and WilfulContrast this with my later acquisition Coco, a Basset Hound. A handsome specimen with the classic sad and droopy face, jowls et al, Coco suffers from both occasional seizures and frequent mood swings. An approach in his direction, with best intentions, can evoke dramatically different responses: from a friendly, excited, tail-wagging welcome, to total loss of control; sometimes a resentful, even angry growl, bark or snap in the general direction of approach. Unpredictable mood swings from hypomania and hyperactivity to depression and profound apathy characterise his eventful existence. Disobedient, wilful and obstinate, he can be depended on to do exactly the opposite of what is intended, oblivious to “his Master’s” pleas, commands and threats. Indeed so agnostic is Coco of his surroundings that he can collapse like a sac, his numerous folds spread around him, in fitful slumber, no matter what the circumstances are. House rules mean little to this brat! Stride he will into any room at will, climb on any piece of furniture that strikes his fancy; and somehow manage at least once in each week to manifest for our benefit the pinnacle of filth; no part of the garden, however muddy, having been spared during his meanderings.

Not surprisingly, he emits a profound doggy odour so striking that dog lovers claim it should be bottled and sold (Chanel by Coco is our private joke). Guests without a fondness for canines, beat a hasty retreat from our abode when he decides to bless our company with his presence.

The contrasts in doggy behaviour become most apparent in our morning walk together. Carlo, the German Shepherd, needs no leash, walking three to four kilometres on the footpath that runs alongside arterial roads near our home. Rarely straying more than 10 feet from “his Master”, purposeful in his stride, nary a glance asunder, whatever the provocation, Carlo is the epitome of walking propriety, even his ablutions being timed for completion at a certain discreet spot.

Coco, the Basset Hound, on the other hand, treats the walk as a grand exploration of sorts; an opportunity to experience for himself this beautiful world that the good God has created. Constantly tugging at his leash in an angle perpendicular to the general direction of travel; sparing no human, animal or plant form en route from his nasal excursions, Coco is anything but purposeful about his morning constitutional, his ablutions being intermittent and erratic, intruding into the well directed journey of his fellow canine and Master, much to their combined annoyance. No order is heard, let alone obeyed; no single purpose complied with, other than that, which his doggie mind is set on.

My clinical experience in brain and mind matters has led me to conclude that Carlo, my German Shepherd, is left-brained and Coco, my Basset Hound, right-brained. The concept of hemispheric dominance, i.e. which side of the brain has a more dominant effect in the concerned individual, is one example of how brain function may influence behaviour and temperament.

Left brain dominant individuals tend to be more ideological and philosophical in their approach; more motivated by social and pragmatic, rather than emotional concerns; more diligent, purposeful, capable of greater tenacity and driven more often by a sense of duty.

On the other hand, right brain dominant people have a better appreciation of the world around them, greater creative ability; a proclivity for the finer aspects of life; and tend to be more mood and emotion driven in making their choices; both day to day ones and those that are life-defining. Put simply, left brained individuals think with their heads, the right brained with their hearts; and can be quite a study in contrasts, experiencing great difficulty understanding one another. Little wonder then that many professional and personal relationships run into rough weather; the two parties failing to understand each other’s contrasting preferences and predilections.

Unique Temperamental Attributes

Carlo and Coco have taught me that brain dominance is not an exclusive prerogative of the human race. And love them as I do, equally, I have learnt through them to celebrate rather than despair in these unique temperamental attributes conferred on us by our brain, that marvellous wonder of creation. To understand my family and friends better by observing their brain dominance. To choose correctly my activity companions: left brained for the purposeful and right brained, the hedonistic; and to tailor my expectations of them, appropriately. Carlo and Coco have enhanced my understanding of human nature; and thanks in part to them, I find myself at peace with my fellow men; well most of the time. It is a dog’s life, indeed!

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The Entrepreneurial Mind

Many years ago, I remember watching a BBC program on the qualities of entrepreneurship. A diverse group of young individuals who did not know each other and had no knowledge of each other’s identity were being put through a series of tests, to identify secret entrepreneurs in their midst. One test stands out in my mind: the participants were asked to aim for and hit a target from a distance of their choice. Needless to say, the greater the distance from which one tried to accomplish the task, the more the rewards and indeed, the risks. Interestingly, the entrepreneurs in the group were the ones who chose to try from seemingly impossible distances. This appetite for risk is well recognized as being a quintessential entrepreneurial quality. But pray, what else characterizes the entrepreneurial mind? This is the subject of our exploration.

Five Minds!

Howard Gardner has described “the five minds” that are necessary for leadership. He begins with “the disciplined mind” acquired through years spent in scholarship, a craft or a profession, which he estimates takes the average person a decade to master. He prescribes that the disciplined mind emerges from consistent work done to develop skill sets and a knowledge base. This concept of “the disciplined mind” necessitates education and/or training, of course. But is education or training an essential pre-requisite for the entrepreneur? Many famous entrepreneurs have had very limited formal education, and in many instances have dropped out of the educational system, only to prosper. Famous examples of people who did not survive the educational system for a variety of reasons include Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and our own Dhirubhai Ambani; all synonyms of successful entrepreneurship. So is education at all necessary for entrepreneurial excellence?

John Warrilow in a recent article identifies some reasons why an MBA may be bad for entrepreneurship.

1. Causal rather than Effectual Reasoning:

Entrepreneurs use effectual reasoning (they assess what resources they have and ask themselves what can be created) while conventional CEO’s use causal reasoning (they set goals and develop systematic plans to achieve those goals). MBA programs teach causal rather than effectual reasoning.

2. Adaptive rather than Innovative Thinking:

Adaptors are cautious and pragmatic. They take others ideas and try to innovate them, incrementally. On the other hand innovators overturn other ideas, challenge conventional concepts and are into big-bang thinking. MBA programs teach adaptive thinking rather than innovation, which is an entrepreneurial quality.

The advantages of the disciplined mind notwithstanding, one must address the question therefore, whether formal education is necessary for entrepreneurship, or whether indeed it is an impediment for success. John Warrilow points out that an MBA is bad for entrepreneurs also because “your classmates will not be entrepreneurs” and “you will waste 40% of your risk free years in a classroom”. It is a truism that the higher one climbs on the academic ladder, the more one usually has by way of formal employment opportunities, and the greater are the risks when one chooses to pursue an entrepreneurial venture in favor of well paid employment. Thus, too many years spent in education maybe a disincentive for risk, that important entrepreneurial quality. On the other hand it has to be acknowledged that formal education such as an MBA does bestow on one credibility, a critical element for entrepreneurial progress, at least in the early years. A doctor turned entrepreneur recently remarked to me, rather ruefully, that it took an ivy league MBA for people to be convinced about the seriousness of his entrepreneurial intent and ability.

Howard Gardner goes on to describe “the synthesizing mind” as learning to integrate disparate sources of information, identifying the links between them. Synthesis he says is identifying the jobs that need to be done and the people available to do those jobs. Synthesis is the identification of priorities and the way forward, balancing past visions with future aspirations. Synthesis enables one to examine new ideas in the light of one’s knowledge base. In this concept one needs the discipline of education combined with the ability to integrate disparate sources of information, an ability that usually comes with work experience.

Gardner then describes “the creating mind”, more a function of the leader than of the manager. Entrepreneurs are leaders and are generally bestowed with a strong sense of creativity, the ability to innovate and think out of the box. In general, the leadership of organizations require the development of compelling narrative, which then gets embodied in the leaders life. Good leaders (and entrepreneurs) are therefore expected to live by the principle “my life is my work; my work is my life” and to bring about changes to the lives of those

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The Stranger In The Mirror

Mad Tales looks at the way Hindi cinema has portrayed human emotions, madness in particular, down the decades and what these caricatures tell us about ourselves as a society.In a country like India, where people idolise film stars and are influenced greatly by cinema, it is very important that issues like human emotion and mental illness are portrayed accurately and responsibly.

Mad tales from Bollywood, Professor Dinesh Bhugra, Maudsley Monographs number Forty-eight, Psychology Press, U.K.Art is often viewed as a caricature of society — an exaggerated portrayal of the life and times it evolves in. In no art form perhaps is this a greater truism than the world of cinema. Human emotion takes the centre-stage in most cinematic endeavour: from romance to war, epics, social drama and magical realism. Indeed, even the most Kafkaesque (or for that matter, Tarantinoesque) contribution, is fashioned around bedrock of human emotion.

Mad Tales from Bollywood (2006: Psychological Press, Hove, U.K.) is a unique effort by a London based academic psychiatrist of Indian origin, Professor Dinesh Bhugra. In this work he analyses from a cultural viewpoint the portrayal of human emotions and mental illness in Indian Cinema.

The book begins on a technical note, defining and introducing some basic terms and concepts. One of these, “The Other”, an individual who stands for something quite opposite to what we stand for, is of interest from the perspective of how mental illness and villainy are portrayed. How this other gets defined, vilified, criticised, made fun of, or rejected outright is crucial, as mental illness may be then viewed as a visitation, mitigating one’s responsibility for it and engendering greater acceptance of the sufferer.

The author explores the socio-cultural underpinnings of Indian cinema, paying attention to the extended family in Indian society with its attendant religious undertones. The use of song and dance in Indian movies, to convey emotions of love, passion, anger and hatred, with the protagonists often being far apart from one another, is dealt with in some detail. The roles of gender, social and class factors, besides that of patriarchal hierarchy, dictate how songs are used in Indian society. The new boldness that has swept Indian cinema halls, particularly in how sexual emotions are dealt with, is discussed here. While in the yesteryears the coming together of flowers or butterflies would convey erotica, or indeed, such portrayal will be relegated to the vamp or coquettish mistress, there is today a sexual brazenness sweeping Indian cinema, reflecting the changing sexual mores of Indian society. The fact that the character played by Amitabh Bachchan in “Hum” could sing, “Jumma, chumma de de (kiss me…)” and the heroine in “Khalnayak” asked, “What is under your blouse?” reflects the social shift towards a more open acknowledgement of sexual desire and erotic thoughts.

Changing LandscapeThe author traces the history of Indian cinema against the background of the changing political, economic, cultural and social landscape of the country, the hero being the focus of this exploration. In the 1950s and 1960s, several Muslim socials (as films with Muslim stories and characters were often called) of the time represented the zenith of that culture in Indian cinema. After the initial shock of the Partition, these films were placed very much in the Islamic context, and they exploited the culture of a bygone and much-mourned era. There was also a post-independence idealism that marked this period, many films with patriotic fervour being released at that time. The 1960s, widely regarded as the golden era, was characterised by a certain romanticism, with family and social melodramas, excellent lyrics and good songs that had wholesome family appeal. The hero was our aspirational ideal: good looking, vibrant and romantic. In the 1970s, the euphoria of independence had disappeared. The protagonist is shown as a marginalised individual whom the audience can identify with. He is much wronged and exploited, and has suffered physically, emotionally and psychologically. He does what we would like to do, but are prevented from doing because of social mores and our own private morals. Interestingly, this change coincided with the imposition of the “Emergency” in India and the widespread social disaffection this provoked in Indian society. This theme continued well into the next decade, with the portrayal becoming more prominent, aggressive and violent.

The dominance of the angry young man continued in the 1990s. However, his anger was no longer directed against society. Instead, it became a symbol of love. The roles of Shah Rukh Khan as the love-obsessed stalker in films like “Deewana”, “Darr”, “Baazigar” and “Anjaam” heralded the arrival of a psychopath who feels no remorse or guilt. Another theme that emerged in this period, which has continued in this millennium, is a new idealism involving young people with high aspirations and dreams, either in urban India, or often living abroad, but culturally conscious of their “Indian-ness”. This evolution, which coincided with economic liberalisation and globalisation, appeals both to the younger audience of Indians and to the Indian Diaspora. Family dramas and romance have made their reappearance reflecting also an interesting coexistence of tradition and modernity. Interestingly, the psychopath who engages in mindless violence (“Abhay” in Hindi, “Alavandan” in Tamil); the person with an explosive impulsive personality (Shah Rukh Khan in many films); the multiple personality disorder sufferer (“Manichitratazhe” in Malayalam; “Chandramukhi” in Tamil); all continue to engage our cinematic cultural consciousness, as do themes of marital jealousy and infidelity (“Astitva”), unusual relationships that transgress social class and mores (“Chandni Bar”, “Ek Chalis ki Local”); differences in age (“Jogger’s Park”, “Nishabdh”, “Cheeni Kum”) and other conventional barriers. Indeed, it could be said that Indian cinema has demonstrated the maturity to explore many an unconventional emotive theme, while continuing to remain curiously infantile in Toto, largely reflecting a male dominated parochial society.

Appalling PortrayalThe portrayal of madness in Indian cinema is appalling. Those with mental illness are clowns, feeble and weak. Those treating them are caricatures, all in white coats and, absurdly enough, they get the hero to face the truth by setting up situations, as a detective might. Prof. Bhugra reviews several Indian (mainly Hindi) movies to make this point. As in “Khamoshi”, the senior psychiatrist chairs a meeting with at least 10 other psychiatrists to decide whether the protagonist is insane or not. They take turns in asking questions to assess his mental state; with one psychiatrist (unusually) instructing him to keep his answers short and to the point. The interview is more like an inquisition with rapid fire questioning.

Illogical and unrealistic portrayals of mental illness in Indian cinema are highlighted here. The heroine, usually a nurse or, more recently, doctor, makes it her life’s mission to “cure” the mentally ill protagonist, often going far beyond the call of her profession; more alarmingly, often breaching clinical ethics by falling in love; the submission of the heroine to many a risky assignation in order to diagnose or identify the cause of the protagonists madness; the explosive climax which puts all including the protagonist at risk of losing life, limb and sanity; the ward filled with several mentally ill people, most engaged in some ridiculous form of repetitive activity (running around, body rocking, asking the same comical question repeatedly, staring into space) all of which reduce mental illness to a caricature; the delivery of treatment in a most unethical, unacceptable and unrealistic manner etc. without discussion or consent, etc. The common thread that binds these cinematic situations together is that they are designed to shock the viewer and dissociate him from mental illness, making the mentally ill person the classic “other”. Indeed, Western films too share the tendency to portray mental illness and its treatment unrealistically, resulting in worldwide misconceptions about the role of the psychiatrist and psychiatric treatments. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) or shock treatment as it is popularly referred to, has suffered and been demonised in particular due to its unrealistic portrayal in cinema. People are often given ECTs when fully conscious and sitting up, a most unusual practice, not in the armamentarium of any right thinking psychiatrist.

Curiously, however, there is also a humanism that is often conveyed through this bizarre portrayal. The nurse is often portrayed as having genuine empathy for her patients while remaining fiercely loyal towards the doctor, resulting in an emotional conflict (for her). The patients appear to form a closer network and, to their minds, “the other” is obviously the hierarchy and the establishment.The chronological approach adopted in this book enables the reader to study the evolution of Indian cinema over time, to comprehend the change in perception and portrayal of various subjects including mental illness over the decades and how the changes in politics, economics, culture and society affect changes in cinema, ensuring that he leaves no ambiguity in conveying his findings.

The films that Dr. Bhugra has made references to are popular, decade-specific contributions that attracted large audiences in their respective times, were influenced by the social climate of the country, and in turn influenced society as well. The cumulative effect of viewing film after film is the creation of a mental warehouse full of internal stereotypes stored in the preconscious and unconscious memory banks. He calls for more studies on the influence of external factors on the way films are conceived and made, so that a more accurate picture of mental illness can be projected by cinema, which is a rather powerful medium influencing public opinion.

Deceptive TitleThe title of the book and of its many constituent chapters is deceptively light hearted and in some ways does not do justice to it. This book is a comprehensive and scholarly analysis of the gamut of philosophical, psychological, social and cultural issues associated with human emotion (including mental illness) in Indian cinema, dealt with in a serious, theoretical manner. The book does largely limit itself to Hindi cinema save a few references to regional contributions. The author draws on a vast theoretical and academic base to convey his point authentically. The wide array of references ensure that the book is a storehouse of information not only for cinema buffs and mental health professionals, but also students across the spectrum of humanities.In a country like India, where people idolise film stars and are influenced greatly by cinema, it is very important that issues like human emotion and mental illness are portrayed accurately and responsibly. With the great mass of Indian cinema audiences being highly vulnerable to the influences of this medium, accurate and responsible attempts at portraying human emotion and mental illness are necessary, as also avoiding portrayals that trivialise and dehumanise important disorders of the mind. However, as the author has pointed out rather eloquently, the trivialisation of madness in India cinema may in itself be a reflection of the liberal, forgiving and largely tolerant society that we are!

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Inspirational Genius

When we refer to our minds, we often touch our hearts, or our heads. Yet, the mind as a physical entity, one that can be localised in a scan for example, does not reside anywhere in the human body. Our feelings, thoughts and emotions do — they are represented in our brains. To try and unravel this conundrum, let us take a computer analogy. When we consider cognition and behaviour, our brain is the hardware, the equipment and processes that make computers work. On the other hand, the mind is an operating system that draws upon the hardware but does not have significant physical representation, much like the software in our computers. The mind, therefore, is a virtual entity, one that reflects the workings of the neural networks, chemical and hormonal systems in our brain.

Having accepted that the brain and the mind are a unitary organ with diverse functions, it becomes imperative that we consider the “soul”, traditionally an esoteric and controversial concept. A noun variously defined as “psyche, inspiration and energy”, the soul has many synonyms in the English language. Where the soul resides is, however, a matter of conjecture; a question that is both difficult to answer and difficult to objectively experiment on. However, if one were to consider “the soul” as the vital force that inspires, energises and stimulates us, then it may be possible to study its manifestations and effects in all human activity having those qualities.

The possibility that one could study the soul by associating inspirational human experience, religion, music, poetry and literature, with the brain, is tantalising to say the least. In his book The Soul in the Brain, Michael R. Trimble, Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Neurology at University College of London, expounds the neurological correlates of such inspirational human experiences that were once considered to be the exclusive purview of the heart. Trimble commences his book with the words, “If you fear that opening your mind will cause your brain to fall out, then this book is not for you. If you are unhappy discussing neuroscience in the context of poetry, music and, above all, religion, then again this text cannot be recommended.”

Basis of EmotionsTrimble begins by exploring the brain anatomy of human emotion, implicating the Limbic System as the seat of human emotion. Seated deep within the brain and consisting of a network of critical structures, the Limbic System is the oldest part of the mammalian brain. There is considerable data today from brain imaging studies to show that this part is closely associated with emotional disorders. For example, the Amygdala, a multinucleated structure intricately connected with many brain parts, has been shown to both vary in size and to have different levels of neurochemical activity in various emotional disorders. The Amygdala is today the focus of much of the brain research that is concerned with human emotion and emotional disorders. Expounding on the neurobiology of emotion beyond these structures, Trimble discusses their links with other critical brain areas. He quotes extensively from the work of 20th century experts who have contributed to our understanding of emotional brain function, exploring brain anatomy beyond limbic structures that has a role in human emotion.

Poetry and literature are areas that Trimble explores at some length in this book. He describes how the use of the language of poetry and metaphor produces heightened activity of the right hemisphere of the brain. Pointing out that certain neuropsychiatric conditions have strong associations with specific creative pursuits, he draws attention to the links between literary creativity and Bipolar Affective Disorder (Manic Depressive Illness), an association strangely not witnessed with another major mental illness, Schizophrenia. He quotes extensively from the works of several poets with Bipolar Affective Disorder such as William Cowper (1731-1800), Robert Lowell (1917- 1977) and Anne Sexton (1928-74). For example, Anne Sexton, who frequently took drug overdoses and finally committed suicide, wrote:

Anne Sexton

Sleepmonger,
deathmonger,
with capsules in my palms each night,
eight at a time from sweet pharmaceutical bottles
I make arrangements for a pint-sized journey.
I’m the queen of this condition.
I’m an expert on making the trip
and now they say I’m an addict.
Now they ask why.
WHY!
Don’t they know that I promised to die!

Yes
I try
to kill myself in small amounts,
an innocuous occupation.

One cannot help but draw a parallel with the famous Tamil poet of the Indian independence movement, Subramanya Bharathi, who was renowned for his extraordinary creativity, intermingled with profound emotionality supplemented by generous doses of nationalistic and religious fervour (see box). Indeed, the creative human brain has perhaps an excessive proclivity for emotionality; quite understandably, given that creativity is often inspired; and inspiration in all forms requires feeling!

Another Meeting Ground Religion is another area that exemplifies this meeting of the “trinity”. Most dictionaries describe religion as “a way of life”; religious beliefs, practices and experiences have a strong cultural basis in their evolution. It seems inconceivable therefore that religious experience may have its basis in the brain. However, why are some people more intense in their practice of religion, while others are considerably less enthusiastic; or why do one’s religious attitudes, beliefs and practices change during one’s life span? Can this be explained by sociocultural factors alone, or are there more inherent biological determinants of these behaviours? For example, there are considerable differences in how siblings experience and practise religion even though their sociocultural ethos are similar, and we witness the entire spectrum from intense religiosity to strong agnostic tendency within a family.

Further, religiosity is an important component of many brain and mind disorders. The depressed, anxious or avoidant individual is almost desperate in his pleas for religious salvation, rather different from the intense ritualism of the person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The religious ecstasy of the person with mania is qualitatively different from the prophetic fervour of the person with paranoid schizophrenia or temporal lobe epilepsy. The hyper-religious individual with temporal lobe epilepsy has on occasion been described as a dramatic persona complete with religious symbols and a prophetic fervour, with an unshakeable belief that his existence had a special purpose for the world we live in. In his chapters on “Neurotheology”, Trimble also quotes patients with epilepsy, dementia and head injury who have religious experiences. The triad of hyper-graphia (the keeping of copious and detailed notes and diaries), hyper-religiosity ( an increased interest and practise of religious matters) and hypo-sexuality (a diminished interest in matters sexual) is well described in the syndrome of temporal lobe epilepsy; especially in long standing and poorly controlled patients with recurrent temporal lobe epileptic seizures. It is accompanied by an obsessional and viscous personality. Trimble points out that while the note taking and diary keeping is copious, it lacks, unlike the poetry of the person with bipolar disorder, creativity and appeal. This fundamental difference may reflect the different brain substrates that underlie these conditions.

“The content of the writing from hypergraphic patients with epilepsy often reflects religious or mystical themes.” (Roberts, Robertson, and Trimble, 1982.)In his chapter on “Music and the brain” Trimble brings out the emotional nature of musical language.

‘Plato considers that music played in different modes arouses different emotions… Major chords are cheerful, minor ones sad; the ups and downs of life…”

While music and the brain is a topic that has been covered widely elsewhere, the uniqueness of Trimble’s contribution is in developing the links between the brain, mind and music. Pointing out that music and poetry have the unique ability to bring one to tears, often as part of a state of ecstasy, he goes on to explore the brain processes that may mediate emotional crying, which he points out as being a uniquely human experience. Why are we, the human race, so moved by art, poetry and music that we are reduced to tears, not those of sorrow, but of elation and ecstasy? In Indian lore, musical saints and savants are often described to reach states of ecstasy in the development or indeed deliverance of their favourite compositions, usually in praise of their favourite lord. The great composer Thyagaraja attained this state in the worship of Lord Rama; Purandaradas in the worship of Vitobha; Bharathi in the worship of his favourite Parasakthi; the list is indeed long. What brain and mind processes lead to these states of intense devotion and creative focus, combined with religious fervour?

The Creative HalfTrimble in his book quotes many studies that implicate right hemisphere activity in musical perception. It is widely understood that the right hemisphere is the “creative half” of the human brain. Interestingly, the right hemisphere also happens to be the emotional hemisphere. That right hemisphere dominant individuals are both creative and emotional may explain why those engaged in artistic pursuits express both qualities in ample measure. There is an impression among clinicians that Bipolar Affective Disorder (Manic Depressive Illness) is for example over represented in the creative professions; the biological basis for this may well rest in the right brain. Trimble himself has pointed out that the relationship between the brain and aesthetic experiences, rather than being the rule, may indeed be exceptional: “… not all patients with bipolar disorder become poets, of course nor are all poets manic-depressive” (p. 106). Further, it may be erroneous to conclude that these experiences belong to the brain alone. The mind, while an abstract construct in this the 21st century, remains an important part of clinical and scientific lore. The contributions of the mind to poetry, music, art and religion cannot therefore be ignored. Trimble’s work is commendable as a rare attempt to relate the highly technical specialty of neuroscience with something as abstract as art and in doing so fills an important void in scientific and popular literature.“The neuroscientific community has generally shown little interest in exploring the finer aspects of human behaviour and thought, especially aesthetic experience and creativity.”

Tangible MarkersIntellectual debate about where the soul resides is likely to continue for eons. Through this important work we understand emotional experience and creative pursuits are vicarious markers of the human soul. We may then develop a persuasive argument that a critical mass of brain structures and their connections are associated closely with these vicarious markers of the soul. While this does not prove that these critical brain structures are where the soul does indeed reside; not even that the vicarious markers are a true soul representation; it is an important scientific link between profoundly moving human experience and the brain. One could still argue that the soul does not necessarily reside in the human brain and that we do not have adequate “proof of this concept”. Which does of course leave us asking, “Pray, just where doth the soul reside”?

Everyday RelevanceWhat is the relevance of “Trinity Talking” concept to our lives, you may well ask. All of us come across people in society who excel in their creativity. Obviously these individuals have inspirational periods when their mind, brain and soul are in sync! The more productive the individual and the more evocative her/his productions, the more frequently is their “Trinity Talking” may well be one explanation. Indeed, going beyond the creative pursuits to other professions and trades, every one of us will possibly have at least one moment in our life, profession or vocations when we experience this spark of “enlightenment”, however brief. In these periods there is sudden clarity that often follows a period of confusion and turmoil. In these periods we often make momentous decisions and take definitive actions that may have an impact on our whole life. In these periods we experience true “self actualisation”. One may contend that the more frequent and more sustained these experiences, and more willing the person to explore and follow up on them, the more successful and productive he is. Clearly these are precious moments when our thoughts, beliefs and emotions meet with.

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The Almighty Within

Most dictionaries describe religion as “a way of life”. Religious beliefs, practices and experiences of individuals in our society, appear to have a strong cultural basis in their evolution and have been described as part of every ancient civilisation discovered and studied by modern man. On the face of it, therefore, it seems inconceivable that religious experiences may have biological basis in our brains.Several questions remain unanswered in our quest to understand how religious experiences occur. Why are some people intense in their religious beliefs and practices and others considerably less enthusiastic? Or indeed, why do one’s religious attitudes, beliefs and practices change during a life span, progressing sometimes: from atheism to agnosia to intense religiosity (or indeed in the converse direction)? Can socio-cultural factors alone have such influence on our lives, or are there more inherent biological determinants of these experiences and behaviours? Empirical observation suggests that a simple sociocultural explanation may be inadequate. There are for example considerable differences in religious attitudes and practices between siblings born of the same set of parents. The socio-cultural ethos in this situation is a virtual constant. Yet variations in the quality, frequency and intensity of religious experiences are observed and it’s not uncommon to witness the entire spectrum, from intense religiosity to a strong atheistic tendency within the same family. While psychological experiences and social factors unique to each individual may have a significant role in determining these variations, they are often conjectures that arise from social and clinical observation.

Insights from NeuropsychiatryNeurology, psychiatry and their interface discipline neuropsychiatry provide many interesting models for the study of religiosity. Religious phenomena vary tremendously across brain and mind disorders. The religious ecstasy of the person in a bipolar mania is qualitatively different from the prophetic fervour of the person with paranoid schizophrenia. The depressed, anxious or avoidant individual is almost desperate in his pleas for religious salvation, rather different from the intense ritualism of the person with OCD or indeed the magical beliefs of the schizotypal individual. There are also variations in quality and intensity of religious experience across psychiatric disorders; for example, the acute hyper-religiosity of mania is rather different from the grumbling, slowly evolving, almost prophet-like religious fervour of the person with a schizophrenia-like illness. Are these variations in phenomenology, quality and intensity of religious experience governed by psychological and socio-cultural determinants alone? Or indeed do different brain mechanisms have a role to play in determining these variations?Neurology too has its share of religiosity models. The Geschwind syndrome is a personality syndrome that has been described in people with poorly controlled temporal lobe epilepsy. While a well defined cluster of behavioural symptoms characterise this personality type (see “The Inside Man”, The Hindu Magazinedated November 29, 2009), intense hyper-religiosity with intensified preoccupations related to moral, philosophical, religious, or ethical themes are a core feature of this syndrome (see also box on Kumagusu Minakata). Bear and Fedio (1977) provided a biological explanation for this syndrome (the sensory-limbic hyperconnection” hypothesis). They proposed that ongoing electrical activity in the temporal lobe (in the person with temporal lobe epilepsy or TLE) resulted in all sensory experience (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting etc.) being suffused with a strong emotional coloration. This resulted in relatively ordinary experiences being viewed with a certain emotional intensity by the person with TLE. Hyper-connection of critical brain structures for emotion, specifically the limbic system comprising the amygdala, hippocampus and other critical structures, was therefore thought to be the biological underpinning that determined hyper-religiosity and other personality features in TLE.

A God Module in the Brain?Perhaps the most dramatic recent description of hyper-religiosity in epilepsy is that of V.S. Ramachandran in his book “Phantoms in the Brain”. In a chapter provocatively titled “God and the Limbic System”, Ramachandran draws on his clinical experience to give the reader an evocative description of a hyper-religious patient with temporal lobe epilepsy. He describes the dramatis persona complete with religious symbols and a prophetic fervour, accompanied by a firm belief (in that individual) that his life had special meaning and his existence a special purpose for the world we live in. While Ramachandran’s subject had symptoms that were decidedly exaggerated (a caricature rather than the norm), hyper-religiosity in people with TLE evolves over time (a trait phenomenon), not just appearing suddenly (as in a state phenomenon). Ramachandran poses the interesting question “is religiosity a pre-determined biological trait”; paraphrased, this could read “is there a god module in the human brain?” Research using MRI volumetry and functional MRI (fMRI) techniques have demonstrated rather interestingly, links between structures in the limbic brain, especially the hippocampus and religiosity. Indeed, one paper that I co-authored (Wuerfel et al, 2004) demonstrated links between a small right hippocampus and hyper-religiosity in epilepsy.

Unanswered QuestionsWhile putative associations between religious experiences and the limbic system have been demonstrated, a number of questions remain unanswered.First, what exactly is normal religiosity and what is hyper-religiosity? One suspects that this in itself is subject to transcultural influences. Western studies report about a third of people surveyed as being “religious” or “very religious”. We surveyed over 500 people using a suburban railway booking counter in Chennai and found almost 70 per cent of all individuals qualified as being “religious” or “very religious”. In the Indian social context, where religious expressions and beliefs are common place, the phenomenon of hyper-religiosity can be difficult to define. For example, in our Chennai survey, when we described hyper-religiosity as being two standard deviations from the median score in our questionnaire, we found only a small proportion of people qualified. Social norms of “normal religiosity” will therefore have a significant impact on what we perceive in each culture as hyper-religiosity.Second, are religious experiences a trait or state phenomenon? It seems clear that religiosity can be both a state and trait phenomenon when observed across the spectrum of neuropsychiatric disorders. Contrary to popular perception, trait behaviours do not stop developing with the onset of adulthood and continue to evolve subtly over many years. It is conceivable that religiosity as a trait behaviour in people with neuropsychiatric disorders may exist from early on, but become very much more apparent during the course of the lifespan, periods of acute emotional distress being particularly prone for religious expression. On the other hand, hyper-religiosity may also be a pure state phenomenon, as observed in mania or acute psychotic episodes, with the person reverting to baseline levels of religious expression, post-episode. In a person without neuropsychiatric illness the religiosity trait may evolve over a lifespan, and depending on life experience may enhance or become muted. Our religiosity may also periodically achieve enhancement during times of adversity, sorrow and grief or indeed euphoria; times when we instinctively reach out to powers beyond.Third, is religiosity a natural consequence of adversity rather than a pathological process? It seems entirely plausible, when viewed from a psychological perspective, that individuals meet adversity in their lives with an increase in religious interest and or experience. Indeed, society encourages and endorses such reactive religiosity and acute emotional breakdown states are often described as spiritual experience or transformation. The flight into hyper-religiosity in the context of a neuropsychiatric disorder may well be a helpful, socially endorsed coping mechanism; spiritual excess being better accepted in society than emotional distress. Why hyper-religiosity disappears in many disorders with the resolution of neuropsychiatric symptoms, and persists in others even after their resolution, does of course beg answers.Fourth, is hyper-religiosity a pathological phenomenon? With the finding of a small right hippocampus being associated with hyper-religiosity and other descriptions of altered limbic physiology in this state, it seems conceivable that biological influences may in some way affect the development or maintenance of hyper-religiosity. Is hyper-religiosity as behaviour pathological? To decide this, one would typically have to refer to the individual’s previous background (personal and socio-cultural) in the religiosity context. Religious behaviours especially those with sudden onset and not in keeping with the person’s background may well be, from a behavioural perspective, pathological.Finally, are the changes in limbic system structure and activity identified in brain imaging of hyper-religious individuals, a cause or consequence of this behavioural predilection? Changes in limbic system structure and function are thought to accompany the longitudinal course of many neuropsychiatric disorders: epilepsy, schizophrenia and depression to name a few conditions. Clarity about what precedes (structural change or behaviour) remains elusive and the changes observed in the brain may thus be both cause and consequence, the brain being a remarkably plastic organ.

Final analysisSo is there a god module in our brain? The evidence available seems to indicate that our emotional brain, the limbic system, the hippocampus in particular, perhaps more on the right side, plays a significant role in determining the nature and quality of one’s religious experience and expression. It is very likely, the rich neuro-chemical networks that populate this region, including dopamine and serotonin, have considerable influence on our religiosity, notwithstanding the alteration of brain structure, right hippocampal atrophy. Religiosity may thus be viewed as a trait, which can undergo both physiological and pathological evolution during the course of a person’s lifetime. The nature of the underlying biological framework in an individual is likely to determine the form, quantum and nature of religious experience and expression that psychosocial adversity and emotional illness provoke. The bio-psychosocial model of mental health and illness dictates that both the physiological and pathological manifestations of this trait marker are likely to be influenced strongly by the sociocultural ethos of the individual, as well as his psychological evolution during the course of a lifespan.We must acknowledge here, the very significant role that religion and spirituality play, in helping human beings maintain optimal emotional well being or indeed achieve restoration of emotional health after a breakdown. One must also acknowledge our collective ignorance, as a society, about the biological, neuropsychiatric and psychological effects and virtues of theism, atheism and their many-splendored, much-debated, interface. Whether our religious predilections have a role in protecting and preserving or indeed enhancing our emotional state, remains thus, a matter of conjecture. The influence of this god module in our brain, “The Almighty Within”, is however probably omnipresent, just as our ancients conceived the almighty himself to be. Strange then, indeed, are his ways!

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Beyond Feeling Featured

The Godfather Paradox

Over four decades ago, Mario Puzo gave us, through his The Godfather, an insight into the mind of the socially enabled psychopath. Born in Corleone, a small village in Sicily, that troubled, deprived and violent part of Italy we have learnt to associate closely with the “mafia”, Vito Corleone earned his stripes as a young boy, learning to use the Sicilian gun “the Lupara” with finesse and precision. His flight from Sicily, early years in New York as a humble immigrant, barely managing to make ends meet, and struggling to provide for his young family during the great depression, and his eventual entry into the grey belly of the New York “underworld” after his shrewd murder of a local don, were brought to life most brilliantly by Puzo. Incredibly, the “Godfather” who emerged from these violent beginnings metamorphosed over time into “a reasonable man”, a fact the author takes pain to reiterate several times during the course of the complex tale.

The Mind of the PsychopathVito Corleone, the Godfather who emerged from these humble beginnings in Puzo’s novel and went on to occupy a pre-eminent position in the underworld, makes a fascinating case study, one of the finest descriptions of psychopathic personality in popular fiction. The prototypical psychopath has deficits or deviances in some core areas: interpersonal relationships, emotion, and self-control. Psychopaths gain satisfaction through antisocial (or socially deviant) behaviour, and do not experience shame, guilt, or remorse for their actions. A classic trait among psychopaths is the lack of a sense of guilt or remorse for any harm they may have caused others. Instead, the psychopath rationalises his behaviour, blames it on others, or denies it outright. Psychopaths also lack empathy towards others in general, resulting in tactlessness, insensitivity, and contemptuousness. All of this belies their tendency to make a good, likable first impression. Psychopaths have a superficial charm about them, enabled by a willingness to say anything without concern for accuracy or truth. Shallow affect also describes the psychopath’s tendency for genuine emotion to be short lived and egocentric with an overall cold demeanour. Their behaviour is impulsive and irresponsible, often failing to keep a job or defaulting on debts. Psychopaths also have a markedly distorted sense of the potential consequences of their actions, not only for others, but also for themselves. They do not, for example, recognise the inherent risk of being caught, disbelieved or injured as a result of their behaviour.Emotionally, the fundamental traits underlying this personality are an inability to empathise with others, to feel their emotions, to share their love, joy, pain and sorrow in a deep way. Indeed, the emotions that this personality experiences are distinctly shallow and poorly sustained. It is not that the psychopath does not feel emotions; he feels them so fleetingly and his being carried away by them is so transient (albeit intense) that those feelings fail to have any impact on how he perceives and reacts to the emotions of others. In other words, his emotional experience probably has little impact on his emotional learning and development as a human being.Research has shown that psychopaths have poor perception of the facial emotions others express, and experience difficulties in affect recognition (i.e. gauging the other person’s mood). They also seem to have difficulty in integrating contextual cues in their environment; their perception of an environmental cue is linked to how it relates to goal-relevant environmental information. Put simply, the psychopath fails to perceive environmental cues in the context they are and may thus react inappropriately. As a consequence, psychopathic personalities may fail to perceive fear in the object of their aggression; fail to recognise his abject submission; and therefore perhaps, fail to tailor their aggression to that which will merely provoke a desired response. In the process, their aggressive reactions may be far in excess of that needed to achieve their ends.Psychopaths also often do not sense right and wrong in conventional ways accepted by society: in other words, they often choose to operate from their own reality framework and do not necessarily fit within the moral and legal framework that we accept as a society. From Al Pacino to Veerappan, Real life examples of “Godfathers”, like Veerappan, have been (with few exceptions) intensely proud men, who are not afraid to write their own rule books; judge right and wrong in their unique ways; seldom appearing to feel, certainly not expressing remorse for their actions, however impactful, including the ending of human life, both of perceived opponents and of their own kith and kin. For example, Puzo’s godfather, in mourning the violent death of his favourite older son, focuses more on his (son’s) inability to control his impulses rather than on his own contribution to the sadness that has visited his family. Curiously, the Godfather’s wife, a devout Christian, is described as fervently praying for his (the Godfather’s) soul and presumably its salvation.

A Reasonable ManWhat is fascinating about Puzo’s Godfather is his quality of “reasonableness”, so important for a leader, yet so unusual for a psychopath. Indeed, Vito Corleone is almost statesmanlike in his responses. Highly moralistic in his personal values, he is portrayed as having very strong views about appropriate public behaviour, family honour and sexuality in particular, and is seen to frown on social inappropriateness of any kind. Indeed his second son’s fondness for company with the opposite sex becomes the major reason for the Godfather to summarily reject him, despite having lost his older son to the ravages of his profession. Particular about language and its usage, he reserves his strongest rebuke, “infamita”, to markedly inoffensive situations; even so, it conveys squarely to those around him his displeasure about a person, his statements or actions. That someone so moralistic does not see it amiss to eliminate a rival through murder in cold blood, or indeed coerce a recalcitrant and arrogant movie producer by decapitating his favourite, priceless race horse, leaving the (race horse’s) head in his bedroom for him to wake up beside, experiencing untold terror in the process, exemplifies for us the paradox the Godfather is. Strangely also, throughout the book, the Godfather stands out for his willingness to negotiate; “I will reason with them” is his favourite refrain when confronted with a difficult situation.

The Godfather ParadoxSo if Puzo’s Godfather is a psychopath, what manner of psychopathy does he represent? The primary quality of psychopathy that the Godfather possesses to a great extent appears to be the ability to be ruthless in achieving his own ends. A second psychopathic quality the Godfather exudes is a distorted reality of the impact of his actions; not quite consonant with traditional expectations or social beliefs, nor indeed particularly empathetic. A third, perhaps most striking psychopathic quality the Godfather possesses is his ability to manipulate people and situations rather skilfully. His dispensation of favours is usually with a caveat; that one day, at an appropriate time, the favours will have to be returned. Hesitation to accept or return the Godfather’s favour is viewed with open contempt, suspicion, even derision.There are, however, several differences. Quite contrary to the typical psychopathic personality, the Godfather’s is a slow to warm, even phlegmatic, temperament, and he does not exude a superficial charm. Nor does he lose control over his emotions at any point in time, whatever the provocation; indeed, he regards the inability to control one’s emotions as being an “animal” quality, unbecoming of a sensible human being. His is also a remarkably sensitive personality; quick to take offence and very perceptive of the moods, emotions and reactions of those around him. His ability to perceive social and emotional cues is highly developed, quite unlike the conventional psychopath who appears oblivious to these. Finally, his almost statesman-like willingness to reason makes him stand out from the conventional image we have of the psychopath as a society. Puzo’s Godfather does, therefore, present us with a paradox; cruel psychopath to some, beloved friend and protector to others; a unique combination of sense and sensibility on the one hand, balanced against latent potential for ruthless violence. Does he then represent the socially enabled psychopath?

Are effective leaders socially enabled psychopaths?While “goodness” and “greatness” within organisations is determined in large part by their in-built value systems, leaders often have potential to change value systems, goals, performance and outcomes both positively and negatively. In traditional professions and businesses, leadership is often either supervisory or strategic: the former focussing on getting the organisation (or a group within it) to perform effectively; the latter on managing change and uncertainty effectively, positioning the organisation for future growth. While many forms of leadership have been described, “inspirational leadership” has as its focus “the emotional connect” with people’s energies and goals, converting them into effective followers under all circumstances. This form is perhaps predominant in the leader who is a socially enabled psychopath.Effective leadership is often about helping people and organisations achieve the goals they have set for themselves. Engagement in such goal-oriented activity does call for a certain focus; where the goals set achieve primacy over other concerns, for example, those of the ethical or moral kind. In the competitive world of business, for example, the most effective leader is often perceived as the one who “delivers” whatever the means he employs. It is in this environment that the socially enabled psychopath with his unique perceptions of reality, willingness to shift societal norms and expectations to suit his agenda, and most importantly “willingness to reason with his fellow men” using a range of strategies from charming persuasion to latent threat, comes into his own. His “killer instinct”, lack of empathy and inability to experience and empathise excessively with the pathos of his fellow men consequent to his actions, serve him well here. His actions may hurt his fellow men, or be distasteful; but in the rough and tumble modern world we inhabit, the ability to achieve tangible and productive goals profitable to his organisation and to him, without twinges of conscience or feelings of regret, is often advantageous. The modern-day CEO is, therefore, in many cases, a socially enabled psychopath, effective leaders in business, science, technology, medicine, politics, and religion all exemplifying this “Godfather Paradox”.To label all effective leaders as “socially enabled psychopaths” would clearly be uncharitable to society at large and too much of a generalisation. However, empirical observation does highlight the predominance of aforementioned qualities in various permutations and combinations, among leaders in society, which is curious, to say the least. One may even argue that a certain amount of “social psychopathy” is necessary in order for leaders to succeed, as excessive empathy towards different stakeholders, lack of a personal reality orientation, and inability to “reason” can in many situations be detrimental to the larger cause one represents. Perhaps modern society would eventually deem acceptable a breed of leaders with such “benevolent positive psychopathic traits” without an iota of physical or emotional violence in them. Perhaps, we will as a society, one day, celebrate rather than vilify, “the Godfather Paradox”. Perhaps!

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Autism & ADHD Beyond Feeling Featured

Overcoming Autism with Growing Brain Lab

Disorders of brain and nervous system development are among the most disabling disorders that  affect young children and their families. These include several forms of mental   retardation and learning disability, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, autism, attention   deficit and hyperactivity disorder and a spectrum of motor, cognitive, behavioral and emotional   disorders including those due to family and school stress.

Autism is one of the most important disorders that affects young children. Autism is known as a ‘spectrum disorder,’ because the severity of symptoms ranges from a mild disabilities in learning, language development and social interactions to a severe impairment, with multiple problems and highly unusual behavior. The disorder may occur alone, or with accompanying problems such as mental retardation or seizures. Autism is not a rare disorder, being the third most common developmental disorder, more common than Down’s Syndrome. Typically, about 20 in a population of 10,000 people will be autistic or have autistic symptoms. 80% of those affected by autism are boys.

Children with Autism need the care and attention of a multi-disciplinary team, including the paediatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist, physical, occupational and speech therapists,   psychologists with special training and interest in education and development,   special educators, social workers, speech therapists and nurses.  At present, there is no pharmacological therapy which can cure autism. The only consistently effective treatment for autism is a structured training program; therefore, a combination of a good school and parent training is the best known treatment. Autistic children can make significant progress if the intervention is appropriate and consistent.

Growing Brain Lab (GBL) is an innovative project at Neurokrish-Trimed.  Over a decade GBL has evolved as multidisciplinary model of assessment that addresses Learning,   Aptitude and Behaviour across motor, cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial   domains. GBL has also perfected in this timeframe a model of after-school   therapy incorporating behavioral management and Neurodevelopmental therapy.   With the advent of TRIMED and it’s integrative approach, GBL now incorporates seamlessly a range of holistic interventions targeting symptoms of various developmental disorders including Autism. Play Yoga, Mud Therapy, Reflexology, Ayurvedic Therapies all blend seamlessly into a whole in the TRIMED-GBL program. Inspired by excellence and Success Stories, GBL is today making accessible to families, modern healthcare with ancient wisdom, which is the TRIMED mantra.