Brain Imaging Studies  Scientific Proof or Psychiatric Fraud?

Psychiatry’s latest attempts to validate its assertions about human behavior have included aggressive poaching into the kind of studies that have been traditionally carried out by neurologists. I’m referring specifically to the new technologies which enable a computer-enhanced image to be obtained of peoples’ brains.

The premise behind applying this technology to the diagnosis of psychiatric ‘disorders’ contains at least two fundamental flaws

1. The reporting of studies involving imaging of the human brain contain no reference as to whether or not the subjects have been 'medicated' (or for how long) prior to examination.  The pool of subjects these 'studies' have likely drawn from would suggest that many such individuals had not only been drugged, but for a considerable period of time in many instances. 

These 'studies' provide no obvious proof that variations in brain structure and function either cause, or are caused by, the set of human phenomena which get labeled (variously) 'schizophrenia', bipolar disorder' etc. There is, however, considerable evidence that the 'treatments' for these supposed 'disorders' (which are primarily pharmacological in nature) can and do significantly alter brain structure and function, potentially resulting in physically disabling and occasionally lethal consequences.  This is aside from the fact that psychiatric 'medications' are not only addictive, but can also damage many other parts of the human body.

2. These studies appear to be predicated upon the notion that  'normal' (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) brain functions are essentially identical across the human spectrum. This notion is bullshit simply because the enormous diversity of humankind itself makes it physically impossible. No two people (even 'identical' twins) are exactly the same - so what makes one think that any two peoples' brains are necessarily going to function or look exactly alike?  The very idea is ludicrous. There's no way of determining whether any variations in brain structure or information processing in 'medication'-free subjects (aside from those resulting from obvious, known anomalies like tumors or physical trauma) are anything other than perfectly natural.  

So-called 'mental illnesses' run in families only in the sense that children emulate and respond to behaviors displayed by the adults they have ongoing contact with.  If these adult behaviors are in any way dysfunctional or deviant it is only natural to assume that any children exposed to them will likely develop similar patterns of behaving and coping. 

This whole area of  'science' is riddled with assumptions. It appears to function as an attempt to publicly validate a set of predetermined conclusions after the fact, as opposed to actually seeking to discover anything new. It also appears to be paving the way to a set of invasive tinkerings with peoples' physical and genetic makeup which are both terrifying in their implications and utterly reprehensible morally. 

Some of the same pharmaceutical corporations who manufacture the 'medications' used in psychiatry are involved in genetic engineering development. While the application (at this stage) of this emerging technology appears to be primarily agricultural, there's no guarantee it will remain limited to this area.

Sometimes it's better to leave certain things alone, at least in the physical sense. What is really frightening is the complete lack of humility most 'scientists' appear to be bringing into these endeavors nowadays. They feel they can do anything they wish, and to hell with the people whose lives may be affected negatively in consequence.

I stick with my perspective that psychiatric 'diagnoses' have nothing to do with medicine but instead are social value judgments which are made in ignorance (or denial) of the context of peoples' actual life experiences, and which serve a specific social and political agenda while masquerading as compassion. 

True compassion would require accepting and respecting people for who they are without attempting to forcibly change them, while ensuring their fundamental needs are being met. Instead, we live within a social construct that reacts in horror to any personal behaviors, feelings, perceptions, systems of belief or lifestyle choices that appear to violate existing social parameters of 'normalcy'. 

In biblical through medieval times, such individuals were commonly believed to be possessed by demons. Later, persons of this type were thought to be somehow 'morally compromised' or  'deficient.' The second half of the twentieth century has seen an aggressive attempt to 'medicalize' all things human.  

To be honest, all these evolving beliefs and responses to human behavior reflect nothing other than plain old-fashioned social control wearing an ever-changing variety of disguises through history.  This is why psychiatry remains the only medical specially which is legally empowered to routinely act against peoples' wishes. By doing so it is merely following in the footsteps of the exorcists, witchburners, puritans and assorted other social arbiters and tinkerers who preceded it. Aside from the technological window-dressing, there's nothing really new here.

Graeme Bacque
July 17, 2002