madness redefined: creativity, intelligence and the dark side of the mind

Panel discussion at the World Science Fair 2012 – hosted by Cynthia McFadden.


Panel of professors:
Kay Redfield Jamison (psych) (bipolar)
James Fallon (neuroscience) (ocd, bipolar, sociopath)
Elyn Saks (psych and law) (schizophrenic, hypochondriac)

The intro is poems and stuff, at the end there’s a performance by Irish singer Susan McKeown. If you’re cool with lines like balls on the floor and smells like cabbage in a serious sense, you’ll probably enjoy those sections more than I did. The panel discussion, however, was really good.

It isn’t only about bipolar at all, schizophrenia, depression, psychosis, psychopathy and sociopathy are there too. At just over 90mins long, it sustained the pace and held my interest well. I’m not going to run through the whole thing here, I’ll just give you some tidbits and observations.

The first if these is that KRJ really doesn’t do eye contact. Is that a bipolar thing?
I want to read Elyn Saks’ books. She has an odd laugh; she actually does go ha ha ha ha ha.
Cynthia McFadden’s hair has a life of its own.
James Fallon resembles a teddy bear – not only physically (though his PET scan suggests that he is a serial killer).
It’s a pity we don’t use the word maladroit more. Such a cool sounding word.

Bipolar has the highest correlation with creativity and it shows in the spatial something or other in paintings.
Bipolar people refuse meds in fear of losing their creativity, with schizophrenics it’s more the ‘narcissistic injury’ of having something wrong with them.
You can sustain brain damage and end up better off.
You are not exclusively your brain.
No matter what your genes say, a positive and loving environment gives a far better chance of being fine.
We have an uncivilised healthcare system and not enough hospital time available.
Psychosis is not like an on/off switch, it’s a dimmer.
Stubbornness can be good.
Routine and a support system are essential.
Are the illnesses dimensional or categorical?

All in all it’s a lively discussion, with some excellent laughs – it’s well worth watching. (YouTube again.) I heard consistently as Sicily quite a lot, which made some things a bit surreal (my brain does that when I read sometimes too – if it happens a lot it seems to predict a little doom).

I’d always been optimistic that when and if the mystery of me was solved, it could be fixed; now I was being told that whatever had gone wrong inside my head was permanent and, from all indications, unfixable.
Elyn R. Saks – The Center Cannot Hold

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