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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10 Questions I Have For The "Busy" People Who Don't Have A Job In College

How can your parents keep funneling you money, no questions asked?
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College is a rough time for most people. It's fast, stressful, and most of the time you're not really sure what's going on. While college gets the best of all of us, there is a select group of people that seem to complain the most about school, AND THEY DON'T HAVE JOBS.

Here are 10 questions I have for people who don't have a job in college.

1. How are you so "busy?"

ALL YOU DO IS GO TO CLASS.

2. How do you keep going out and going shopping?

How do you have money? Does it fall from the sky only for you?

3. How can you pretend money isn't an issue?

If you don't have a job, how are you paying for your loans and books and food and rent? Oh, your parents pay your bills? Must be nice.

4. How can your parents keep funneling you money, no questions asked?

How do they not ask where all of your money is going? You bought Uggs last week and now you're buying a $70 eye shadow pallet you'll only use twice. Is your dad Donald Trump??

5. How do you expect to be employed after graduation?

You don't have any work experience AT ALL.

6. What do you do with your free time?

Do you skydive? Take up dog photography? Your possibilities are endless.

7. Do you actually get eight hours of sleep every night?

Really though, is that real?

8. Why don't you have a job?

Don't you get bored, just "doing homework" all the time?

9. Do you plan on getting a job?

Or do you plan on draining your parents' savings completely?

10. Are you actually going to be a functioning member of society after college or are you banking on marrying rich?

It's an honest question, I'm dying to know.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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Why Both The Sciences And The Humanities Are Important

A world without one is no world at all

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When I began looking for colleges I knew I wanted to go to a school that had a focus on the humanities. The idea of constantly being surrounded by those dedicated to creativity, compassion, and the human spirit filled me with excitement and inspiration. While I was going to school to pursue journalism, I wanted the opportunity to continue taking art classes. But now I find myself at Marquette, which lacks art classes, with a second major in environmental studies.

One of the challenges of going to college was having to choose one thing. As much as I was ready to commit fully to the humanities, a part of me couldn't imagine never taking a science or math class again. Since taking AP Environmental Science during my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to include Environmental Studies in my college education, either as a minor or major. While my motive for pursuing Environmental Studies was to help me eventually focus my career to an environmental reporter and achieve my dream job of being a writer for National Geographic, in starting my second major, it has become increasingly about growing into a well-rounded person.

There seems to be an ever-present divide between the those who pursue STEM and those who pursue the humanities, but these two areas are so critically intertwined. Journalism has taught me that writing, that specifically of a journalist, is essential in communicating the important research of those in STEM professions to the public in a way they can understand. Environmental Studies has taught me that while environmental issues are deeply embedded in science, they are also inseparable from the human condition. The sciences and humanities exist within the same sphere, connected. The sciences need the humanities to humanize and contextual their research. The humanities need the sciences to ground their theories in fact.

As much as we would love to exist within the area that interests and comforts us most, it is in our best interest not just as individuals but as interconnected beings to explore both the sciences and humanities. For either to exist without the other would mean a lopsided society, incapable of functioning.

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