Is Addiction a Disease? Yes and No

Yes, it’s a disease. No, it’s a habit. Addiction is a puzzling phenomenon. Why do addicts persist in self-destructive behavior even after it has lost them their jobs, their family, their health, and their self-respect? Do they have any control over their behavior? If so, why don’t they control it? If not, why not? Two

Frontal Lobotomy: Zombies Created by One of Medicine’s Greatest Mistakes

Frontal lobotomies have a dramatic, thankfully rather brief, history in the treatment of mental illness. Janet Sternburg has written an illuminating, and humanizing, book on the history of lobotomies, both personal and societal. It’s not clear who first quipped “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy,” but it’s not

“Hands On Learning Solutions”: Untested Solutions for Problems That May Not Even Exist

Hands On Learning Solutions, a business in Gig Harbor, Washington, evaluates and treats children for learning disabilities and claims to identify the underlying causes and help eliminate the symptoms. Much of what they do is questionable, and at least one of their methods is clearly bogus. Their program is reminiscent of the Brain Balance program that I

Psychology and Psychotherapy: How Much Is Evidence-Based?

Despite all those Polish jokes, Poland has its share of good scientists and critical thinkers. A superb new book illustrates that fact in spades: Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Side of Science and Therapy, by Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski, http://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Gone-Wrong-Science-Therapy/dp/1627345280  Witkowski is a psychologist, science writer, and founder of the  Polish Skeptics Club; Zatonski

Mind Over Matter: The Brain’s Way of Healing

In 2008 I wrote about neuroplasticity as presented in Norman Doidge’s book The Brain That Changes Itself. I urge you to click on the link and read what I wrote there before you continue. The science is fascinating. The brain is far more malleable than we once thought. Areas of the cortex devoted to a sensory

Who’s Crazy Now? DSM-5 and the Classification of Mental Disorders

What does it mean to be crazy? We use the word loosely. In casual conversation we might say “He’s crazy” or “That’s insane!” but that doesn’t mean we really think the person is certifiable. Sometimes all it means is “He doesn’t agree with me.” What does it take to be formally diagnosed with a mental

Mirror Neurons and the Pitfalls of Brain Research

In his new book The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition , Gregory Hickok, a professor of cognitive science, challenges current conceptions about mirror neurons. He shows how a complex mythology arose and why it is unwarranted, how experimental results were misinterpreted and disconfirming evidence ignored, and how other interpretations might lead

Dr. Amen’s Love Affair with SPECT Scans

Daniel Amen loves SPECT scans (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography). And well he should. They have brought him fame and fortune. They have rewarded him with a chain of Amen Clinics, a presence on PBS, lucrative speaking engagements, a $4.8 million mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and a line of products including books, videos and diet

Ecstasy for PTSD: Not Ready for Prime Time

Hundreds of desperate combat veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are reportedly seeking experimental treatment with an illegal drug from a husband-wife team in South Carolina. The Bonhoefers recently published a study showing that adding MDMA (ecstasy, the party drug) to psychotherapy was effective in eliminating or greatly reducing the symptoms of refractory PTSD. It

Don’t Be Depressed About Depression Treatment

Bruce Levine’s article in the latest issue of Skeptic Vol. 17, No. 2: “Depression Treatment: What Works and How We Know” (pp. 23–27) paints a bleak view of depression treatment. He destroys all options except for the patient to congratulate himself on his critical thinking skills and to find something he can believe in. I

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