Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 23:47:30 -0400 (EDT)
From: Howl Bloom
<< Subj: A Complexity Theory and Psychopathology
Date: 98-05-07 22:39:04 EDT
From: JBrody@compuserve.com (James F. Brody)
To: email@example.com (HBES List Serve), firstname.lastname@example.org
(Applied Ethology), email@example.com (Paleopsych)
The attached takes a look at some problems in psychopathology from the
standpoint of some models spun by Stu Kauffman. Feedback appreciated.
Introduction: Kauffman's Model & the Diagnosis, and Treatment of Emotional
May 5, 1998
Kauffman (1995) discusses chaos, stasis, and phase transitions. The model has consequences for evolution and for understanding our cognitive assets, language, and social organization. There are implications for diagnosis and treatment of emotional distress as well as for our understanding of
Chaos refers to the absence of predictable outcomes from single or multiple events. A tiny variation in one trait cascades into every larger, ever wider changes. Stasis refers to prolonged intervals of no change whether in species or rocks. Phase transition applies to the interval between changes from one state to another.
We are surrounded by natural examples; the action of light switches is a useful artificial one. Press the switch lever a tenth inch upwards, the bulb remains dark. It stays dark with each tenth inch the lever travels until the midpoint of the lever's range. Travel that middle tenth -- the phase transition -- and the bulb lights completely, getting no brighter with further deflection of the lever. The cycling of water between solid, liquid, and vapor is a second example. Liquidity occupies a very narrow zone of the range of possible temperatures; ice or vapor occupy the remainder.
Kauffman's model suggests 1) that life operates in a narrow interval between the phases of random activity and rigidity and, 2) the continuum between randomness and behavioral rigidity is a function of the number of interconnections between decision units. INTERESTING. THIS IS ONE OF THE FACTORS TRACED IN _THE GLOBAL BRAIN_ FOR THE BREAKDOWN OF THE FLEEING STAGE. OUT-OF-CONTROL ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS LIKE NOISE, HEAT, BAD NEWS, ETC. HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO INCREASE THE IRRITABILITY OF INDIVIDUALS AND DRIVE THEM APART. THIS QUALIFIES AS A TRUE BREAKDOWN OF THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE DECISION UNITS. OTHER RESEARCH DEMONSTRATES THAT THESE CONDITIONS DECREASE THE ABILITY OF INDIVIDUALS TO COMMUNICATE AND INCREASE DISCOMMUNICATIVE EMOTIONAL TENSIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, EXTREME HEAT IS CORRELATED WITH THE OCCURRENCE OF AMERICAN URBAN RIOTS. THE _GLOBAL BRAIN_ POSTULATES THAT A GROUP WEAKENED BY THE POISONING OF THE LINKS BETWEEN COMMUNICATIVE UNITS BECOMES RIPE FOR TAKEOVER BY A LEADER. IT LOSES ITS ABILITY TO LEAD AND BECOMES A SET OF POTENTIAL FOLLOWERS. BY THE WAY, THE KINDS OF STRESSORS STUDIED IN THE GREATEST DEPTH INCLUDE MANY OF THOSE WHICH WOULD OCCUR IN AN OVERCROWDED TRIBAL OR NATIONAL TERRITORY WHOSE RESOURCE BASE HAS BEEN TAPPED OUT. THE DOWNWARD SLIDE SUCH A GROUP WOULD TAKE IS ANALAGOUS TO THE SELF-DESTRUCT MODE WHICH DISABLES AN INDIVIDUAL'S ABILITY TO PERCEIVE AND COMMUNICATE AFTER EXPOSURE TO LONGTERM STRESS. IN FACT, THAT INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL PHENOMENON IS ONE OF THE FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE GROUP-LEVEL FRAGMENTATION OF THE FLEEING MODE. Mathematical analyses reveal a narrow range separating stasis from chaos, a sufficiently narrow range to be designated a "phase transition."
APPLICATION TO PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
A phase transition model seems promising for an understanding of rapid cycling as well as to other syndromes associated with brain damage, developmental disabilities, ADHD, mania, schizophrenia, and Alzheimers. One of the model's contributions for our understanding of all of these disorders is the heightened probability that density of interconnection between competing neural mechanisms, including some of those involved in different psychological adaptations, is a key regulatory factor in the quality of the disorder. INTERESTING IDEA. YOU'RE IMPLYING THAT THE INSTABILITY AND CYCLING IS A PRODUCT OF A BREAKDOWN IN COMMUNICATION BETWEEN NEURAL MECHANISMS AND AN INCREASE IN THEIR DISCOMMUNICATION. THIS CERTAINLY SQUARES WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF MANY FOLKS I'VE KNOWN, INCLUDING MYSELF. IT MATCHES UP WELL WITH THE CONFUSION AND INDECISION SURROUNDING SERIOUS DEPRESSION. IT ALSO SQUARES WITH THE MODEL OF SELF I WAS PROPOSING A MONTH OR TWO AGO. THIS WAS BASED ON JOHN SKOYLES' OBSERVATION THAT THE HYPOTHALAMUS INITIALLY EVOLVED AS PART OF THE SMELL MECHANISM OF EARLY MAMMALS FORCED TO LIVE A NIGHT LIFE, AND HENCE TO SNIFF THEIR WAY THROUGH THEIR TERRITORY, USING SCENT TO BUILD A MENTAL MAP OF ITS GEOGRAPHY. LATER THIS GEOGRAPHIC MAPPING WAS BORROWED FOR ANOTHER PURPOSE--CATEGORIZING INPUT TO BE PLACED IN MEMORY, POSITIONING EMOTIONAL AND SENSE DATA INTO A COHERENT MENTAL MAP. WHEN WE LOSE THE COHERENCE OF OUR MENTAL MAP, THE ONE WHICH GIVES US A CLEAR PICTURE OF WHERE OUR FUTURE, OUR PRESENT, OUR DESIRES, AND OUR NEXT MOVES FIT INTO THE LANDSCAPE OF OUR LIVES, WE LOSE A SENSE OF CONTROL AND ENTER A VIOLENTLY UNCOMFORTABLE CHAOTIC STATE. THIS SQUARES WITH THE VAST RESEARCH ON LOSS OF CONTROL AND LEARNED HELPLESSNESS. IRONICALLY, ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS STATE, IF SUSTAINED INDEFINITELY, IS DESTRUCTION OF HIPPOCAMPAL CELLS BY HIGH INTERNAL DOSES OF CORTISOL. THIS WOULD HELP INCREASE THE PROBABILITY OF MOVING FROM MOMENTARY CRISIS TO PERPETUAL MENTAL ILLNESS, SINCE THE MAPMAKER ON WHICH WE DEPEND FOR A SENSE OF WELLNESS IS ENFEEBLED. BECAUSE THE HIPPOCAMPUS IS CAPABLE OF GENERATING NEW CELLS AND DOES SO AS A MATTER OF COURSE, I WONDER IF GIVING A PATIENT A CAREFULLY GRADUATED SERIES OF TASKS WHOSE CONSTRUCTION NEARLY GUARANTEES THAT HE OR SHE WILL TRIUMPH OVER ALL OF THEM, THUS REGAINING THE SENSE OF CONTROL, WOULD REVERSE THE HIPPOCAMPAL DEGENERATION. IT CERTAINLY WOULD REVERSE THE GLUCOCORTICOID FLOOD AND PRODUCE A BETTER MODULATED RETURN OF AMINES AND SEROTONIN TO THE SYSTEM, GENERATING A PHASE SHIFT OF THE KIND YOU'VE MENTIONED. GREATER CALM, GREATER SENSE OF MASTERY, INCREASE OF HARMONIC COMMUNICATION BETWEEN CEREBRAL NODES, AND, ACCORDING TO RESEARCH ON EMOTIONS, BEHAVIOR AND PERCEPTION, A RETURN OF A SENSE OF AN UNDERSTANDABLE AND HOPE-FILLED PERSONAL LANDSCAPE.
ON THE OTHER HAND, STUDIES OF EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL HAVE DEALT WITH INDIVIDUALS WHOSE WORLDVIEWS GIVE THEM THE SENSE THAT EVERYTHING IS OUT OF THEIR CONTROL AS A NATURAL STATE OF THINGS. ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS IS NOT SOMETHING THEY CAN RECTIFY, BUT SOMETHING IMPOSED ON THEM BY AUTHORITIES, GODS, CURSES, DEMONS OR CONSPIRACIES OF THOSE ON HIGH. SUCH WORLDVIEWS DOMINATE IN COUNTRIES LIKE HAITI, WHERE CHAOS HAS BEEN A MATTER OF COURSE FOR ROUGHLY 150 YEARS, PARTIALLY *BECAUSE* OF THE WORLD VIEW. IN THIS CASE, THE CULTURALLY PROVIDED MENTAL MAP IS ONE WHICH TOSSES THE INDIVIDUAL INTO THE GLUCORTICOIDALLY OVERWHELMED STRESS STATE OR INTO THE RESIGNATION BEYOND IT AS A MATTER OF COURSE. RESIGNATION IS ANALOGOUS TO THE LAST PHASE OF LEARNED HELPLESSNESS, IN WHICH A DOG OR OTHER EXPERIMENTAL ANIMAL SIMPLY LAYS DOWN ON AN ELECTRIFIED GRID AND DOESN'T MOVE WHEN GIVEN A CLEAR WAY TO ESCAPE. IN THIS STATE, STRANGELY, CORTISOL LEVELS DROP. WHICH MIGHT MEAN THE HIPPOCAMPAL DETERIORATION ENDS--BUT RESEARCH AS YET DOESN'T SAY YES OR NO TO THIS HIPPOCAMPAL POSSIBILITY.
Kauffman's model suggests that rapid oscillation in emotional states is a
function of interconnections between neurons rather than in the total
number of neurons. Analogue changes in the intensity of a reaction and
smooth sequencing between opposed reactions is likely a function of the
number of connections between competing cell assemblies. Evolutionary,
complex behaviors such as those associated with Executive Functions or
creative thought may be a product of interconnection density rather than
particular cell nuclei.
Disruption of axonal interplay by any means -- trauma or chemical shifts --
should elicit more spastic movements, scrambled thoughts, and difficulty
engaging and disengaging action sequences. High degrees of response
variability become a pessimistic diagnostic sign.
Therapeutic interventions that encourage more dense interconnection should
not only smooth execution of response sequences but encourage the operation
of Executive Functions such as planning, waiting, task switching,
analytical ability, and the ability to synthesize new motor sequences for
problem solving. MORE DATA FROM LOCUS OF CONTROL STUDIES: AN INDIVIDUAL WITH AN EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL CAN BE TAUGHT HOW TO SUCCEED, CAN FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS AND ACHIEVE SUCCESS, CAN STILL FAIL TO ABSORB THE LESSON, AND CAN RETURN AS SOON AS THE EXPERIMENT IS OVER TO A PATTERN OF RESIGNED FAILURE. IN THIS CASE, ENCOURAGING THE EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS DOESN'T WORK--IT GOES AGAINST A CULTURAL VIEW WHICH GIVES THE INDIVIDUAL HIS OR HER (DYSFUNCTIONAL) COHERENCE. I KNOW OF NO EXPERIMENTS IN WHICH SOMEONE HAS ATTACKED THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM AND ATTEMPTED TO ALTER THE WORLDVIEW, THOUGH STUDYING THE INTERVENTIONS OF THOSE ARCH WORLDVIEW SHIFTERS, RELIGIOUS PROSELYTIZERS, MIGHT GIVE US A FEW CLUES.
BY THE WAY, THE IDEA OF BUILDING A LADDER OF SCALED TASKS DESIGNED SO THAT THE SUBJECT CAN SUCCEED AT EVERYONE OF THEM IS NO FANTASY. I USED TO BUILD SUCH SUCCESSIONS WHEN DOING RESEARCH USING SKINNER'S "PROGRAMMED LEARNING" TECHNIQUES. ONCE YOU GOT THE HANG OF IT, YOU COULD CONSTRUCT A SERIES OF ACTIVITIES WHICH LED EVER UPWARD AND IN WHICH NO ONE OF NORMAL INTELLIGENCE OR ABOVE COULD POSSIBLY MISS A STEP. THERE WAS POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT AT EVERY LEVEL, AND AT THE END A SENSE OF MASTERY. MY EXPERIMENT INVOLVED DESIGNING SERIES OF THESE GUARANTEED UPWARD STEPS WHICH TAUGHT DOUGLAS COLLEGE GIRLS ELEMENTARY CONCEPTS OF ELECTRICAL CIRCUITRY IN HALF AN HOUR, AND SUCCEEDED *EVERY* TIME. THIS WAS DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE EXPERIMENTAL SUBJECTS HAD NO INTEREST IN ELECTRICAL CIRCUITRY IN THE LEAST. YET EVERY ONE OF THEM MASTERED THE BASICS.
The sensed attribute of richer connections between logic units is a wider range of indecision, a wider range in which the words "maybe," "often," "usually," or "seldom" apply. These shifts are likely regardless of whether the logic units are molecular, chemical, neuronal, or electrical. They will apply whether occurring within a single organism or within a flock and whether the signal between logic units is an action potential or the sensory impact of a conspecific.
Therapeutic interventions that encourage more crosstalk should not only smooth execution of response sequences but encourage the operation of Executive Functions such as planning, waiting, task switching, analytical ability, and the ability to synthesize new motor sequences. Traditional interventions such as learning, anxiety reduction, cognitive therapy, and certain classes of medication likely help move us out of stasis or stereotypy and towards Maybe, the center of a phase transition. Even exercise EXERCISE IS A GREAT WAY TO GIVE AN INDIVIDUAL AN EASY SENSE OF CONTROL. WHEN AT WITS END, ONE CAN ALWAYS CONTROL ONE' S OWN BODY. and dietary shifts could help increase crosstalk between our different psychological adaptations and slow the automatic execution of any one of them.
There are many instances where crosstalk within the client is insufficient. It becomes important then to establish crosstalk (alliances) between the client and other people. THIS IS A NECESSITY JUST FOR BASIC MENTAL HEALTH. SEE ALL THE RESEARCH WHICH HAS EMERGED FROM PSYCHONEUROIMMUNOLOGY. A PERSON'S POSITION WITHIN A SOCIAL WEB HAS A HUGE IMPACT ON THE NEUROENDOCRINOLOGICAL STATES WHICH EMERGE AS EMOTIONS AND AS PHYSICAL HEALTH.