Looking Schizophrenia in the Eye

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Garden of the Mind

272994276_3c83654e97_bMore than a century ago, scientists discovered something usual about how people with schizophrenia move their eyes. The men, psychologist and inventor Raymond Dodge and psychiatrist Allen Diefendorf, were trying out one of Dodge’s inventions: an early incarnation of the modern eye tracker. When they used it on psychiatric patients, they found that most of their subjects with schizophrenia had a funny way of following a moving object with their eyes.

When a healthy person watches a smoothly moving object (say, an airplane crossing the sky), she tracks the plane with a smooth, continuous eye movement to match its displacement. This action is called smooth pursuit. But smooth pursuit isn’t smooth for most patients with schizophrenia. Their eyes often fall behind and they make a series of quick, tiny jerks to catch up or even dart ahead of their target. For the better part of a century, this…

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4 responses »

    • No, I don’t think the post is trying to say that schizophrenics are shifty-eyed. I think, the overall point of the post is about perception. The difference of perceiving the world between schizophrenics and those who do not have schizophrenia. The post also mentions the caveat that this is not an absolute fact of all schizophrenics and may not be related at all to only schizophrenics or as a peculiar trait of schizophrenics. As for phrenology, modern medical science has learnt quite a bit since those times, and such ideas as phrenology needn’t be dismissed, as evolution learns from mistakes. Even if the topic of the post (what is being learnt through neuroscience and neuromimaging) were a modern phrenology, imagine what can be learnt in the future from this idea alone? Imagine what doors can be opened about perception, about the way the mind works (for anyone, not just schizophrenics)? Imagine the evolution that shall result from this daring concept? We must step out onto the precipice of the unknown in order to learn about the unknown.

      • Reading the article, I felt I was looking Biopsychiatry in the eye more than ‘Schizophrenia’, NIKOtheOrb. I could write a book in reply, and more than a few have, so to speak, so I just expressed my scepticism instead. My inverted commas around ‘Schizophrenia’ are deliberate, I doubt its very existence as a useful label for anything a person can be or have or do. Biopsychiatry means the sort of biomechanical psychology currently back in vogue. Phrenology was an earlier form of it.

        I could not even begin to address the article’s suggestions without first questioning its terminology and assumptions. The author hardly speaks my language at all. Modern medical science has indeed learned a lot since phrenology was in vogue, but less about brains than some like to boast and very little indeed about minds.

        You twice mention ‘evolution’ as something that can learn and result from something, a metaphor I find less than useful. Devolution seems to me just as likely to result from searching for ourselves in pictures of our brains. Reductionism in short.

        Three times you urge us to imagine future discoveries. A worthy sentiment, but I don’t see the article as headed that way. The proliferation and publicising of such ‘Neuroscience’ fosters a faith in Science that I simply do not share.

        Thanks, NIKOtheOrb, John

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