Do humans have two hemispheres, or do we actually have two kinds of brains? If human brains are essentially the same, then how do we define mental health and psychiatric illness? What exactly is a “psychosis”? Can a human brain cause harm? This question has plagued our understanding of the brain and its role in mental illness for many years, but as this issue of Mental Health and Psychosis continues to expand, new questions continue to emerge.
Dr. Stephen Barrett
Dr. Stephen Barrett, a professor in the psychology department at the University of Florida College of Medicine, is a leading expert in the development of a method to diagnose schizophrenia. For many years, he has led research in the United States and abroad in what he calls the “psycho-dynamic diagnosis” of schizophrenia, a method used to classify individuals who meet criteria for schizophrenia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 1994.
With his students, Dr. Barrett has used this method to treat nearly 70,000 individuals and published several landmark research articles about the results.
In recent decades, the DSM has evolved in ways that have significantly complicated the way clinicians use it today. Dr. Barrett now argues that the current edition of the DSM should be radically revised, because it has led to confusion rather than clarity and because it is increasingly difficult to diagnose patients who have never shown any signs of psychosis.
In a landmark study, Dr. Barrett conducted an important study that compared brain scans of 10 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia as children with 11 subjects randomly selected from the general population. One brain scan of the 10 patients revealed no differences in structure. On the other hand, the brain scans of the 11 patients revealed abnormalities in several brain areas. Many of the areas of the brain that had been previously described in the literature as being active when people suffer from psychotic symptoms, but are not shown in the brain scans, were found to be abnormally active in the children’s brains.
“It made complete sense to me that this brain tissue would be different in schizophrenia,” says Barrett.
When asked if the brain abnormalities identified in the children were typical of adults with schizophrenia, Dr. Barrett was quick to reply “absolutely not.” However he added that he “hopes it’s the case.”
This conclusion has sparked a number of serious criticisms from scholars on both sides of the brain disorders relationship.
First, some researchers claim that their research is faulty because the children with schizophrenia in the study received
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