Your Brain Is More Than A Bag of Chemicals

Your Brain Is More Than A Bag of Chemicals

In David Anderson's 2013 Ted Talk, the Caltech professor discusses the downfalls of mental healthcare in our society, opening a discussion to wider societal issues.

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David Anderson, in his Ted Talk "Your Brain is Not a Bag of Chemicals" dives into the world of treatment for psychiatric illnesses, of scientific research, and of fruit flies. His goal, to explain the flaws in current treatments of mental illnesses and present how this downfalls could be resolved is clear throughout the talk. Through presenting his research, and speaking of novel contributions such as the actual discovery of emotion in fruit flies, Anderson displays the flaws in mental healthcare and demands more of the scientific world to resolve these downfalls.

As Anderson explains, the traditional view of mental illnesses is that they are a chemical imbalance in the brain. He states, "As if the brain were some kind of bag of chemical soup filled with dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine." He explains the difference for typical treatments of physical ailments versus psychological ailments. As he describes it, physical ailments presented to a physician will lead to blood tests, biological assays, and various other factors to gather information about what is going on in the body so that a treatment plan can be well-suited to that issue. However, for psychological problems, the patient is often handed a questionnaire to assess the issues. These questionnaires, as he suggests, are insufficient in understanding the complexities that surround mental illnesses.

Of medication prescribed for mental illnesses, Anderson states, "These drugs have so many side effects because using them to treat a complex psychiatric disorder is a bit like trying to change your engine oil by opening a can and pouring it all over the engine block. Some of it will dribble into the right place, but a lot of it will do more harm than good." Anderson uses the example of dopamine and the model organism of fruit flies to explain this concept. He explains how in certain illnesses, such as ADHD, there is not a complete understanding of why there are features of learning disabilities and hyperactivity. Without this understanding, the treatment of just increasing the amount of dopamine in one's system is lacking.

Anderson suggests that pharmaceutical companies and scientists should do more research to not only discover the disturbances of neural pathways, which tend to be the real cause of mental illnesses, but to also develop new medications that attempt to resolve these specific pathways and specific receptors, rather than simply increasing the amount of a certain neurochemical. These new medications could and do revolutionize the way that mental illnesses are treated, and the efficacy in their treatment.

As a society, there is a general view of mental illnesses that varies greatly from the view of physical illnesses. Anderson, without directly discussing it, acknowledges this exact problem. He discusses the differences in treatments, but also the lack of resources that are put in to truly understand how to better treat mental illnesses as disturbances in neurophysiological components. Without, as a society, acknowledging and respecting mental illnesses for what they are, we are short-changing the 25% of the world who is directly impacted by these illnesses, and the countless loved ones who stand by those impacted. A shift needs to occur, and the research and ideas that Anderson presents are a wonderful scientific starting point for these shifts. However, if we as a society do not support the principles behind this science, do not support the concept that mental illness is much more than just being a little emotionally reactive, we are doing a disservice to the majority of the population.

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything
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I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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Five Tips to Get on Top of Your 2019: Tech Editions

Yeah, there's an app for that.

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Technology is the course of the future, why not use it to get on top of your new year? Make 2019 the year you stop sleeping on these great productivity apps and get grinding! Best part, all the apps I've included here are free.

Google Calendar.

Look at that beauty.

I LOVE Google Calendar! Not only is it a great tool to map out your week, it comes with cool features. You can color code tasks and events, get text reminders and so much more. You can even sync your calendar with other people's (this is very helpful for roommates or study buddies).

Google Doc File Folders

Crying.

Sick of that long list of documents in your Google Docs? You can make file folders to organize all of your docs!

Momentum Chrome Extension

This is by far my favorite productivity app. It's a Chrome extension that acts as a home page whenever you open a new window or tab. It comes complete with the weather, a motivational quote and a to-do list! The best feature is their "main focus for the day". It keeps you grounded for sure- especially when it pops up with every tab and forces you to think about all you need to accomplish.

Wunderlist

This is a to-do list on steroids- definitely worth checking out!

Todist

A to-do list app for your phone! I love this just to organize what my top priorities are.

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