Category Archives: Law

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED HOW TIME IS PERCEIVED

Einstein discovered that time is relative. No one has applied this concept, scientifically to the human condition. All of us know that we perceive differently as we age and in certain circumstances. I have been looking for a mathematical formula to apply to the perception of time for the past 20 years. As of March, 2016 I have not succeeded. But experience tells us certain factors change our experience of time. A one year old experiences a period of 15 minutes differently than a 20 year old. There is reason to think that a 15 minutes to a one year old equals 50% of their perceived time as a sensient being whereas that same 15 minutes represents .001 of their perceived time experience.

But we also know some events are perceived to last longer than others. Has anyone say in a dentist chair and thought the procedure was taking forever? Experiences that cause pain often change the perception of time. Also, some experiences that are associated with a surge of adrenaline seem to slow time such as knowing you are going to be in an automobile accident.

Another unanswered question is whether there are active techniques we can use to extend our perception of an experience. For example, I am experimented with this personally. Once while swinging on a swing along with my daughter Ali when she was 7 years old I knew I didn’t want this to end. So I attempted to imprint the experience as one a great value to be extended as long as possible. Although purely anecdotal it worked! Stay tuned for the mathematical equation. Enjoy.

New Genetic Marker for Schizophrenia

Recently, a study was published in which researchers found a specific genetic marker for schizophrenia. This illness is one of, if the most, debilitating type of mental illness with recognition of it around the world in all cultures. Most experts on schizophrenia recognize it as a brain based serious illness not simply a behavioral problem. It is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, loose associations, tangentiality, severe deficits in social skills, lack of emotion and the failure to modulate, or control, emotions properly. One study entailed more than 100 scientists and 150,000 patients. Another study found a specific defect that, arguably, if corrected could be a key to successful treatment. Stay tuned for more.

PSYCHOLOGICAL AUTOPSY

It is terribly traumatic to lose a loved one, friend, colleague or even an acquaintance to homicide, suicide or an accidental death, or to a natural death. It is far worse for someone to die when the actual cause of death is in question. In many cases it is very difficult to determine whether someone was murdered, killed themselves, died from an accident or just passed away from natural causes. In legal terms the process to investigate and determine the actual cause of death for someone is called an Equivocal Death Analysis. There is no scientific term of the same name but the Psychological Autopsy (PA) has been used when mental health professionals, usually forensic psychologists or psychiatrists use a well defined process to try to figure out the actual cause of death. The term was coined in the 1960s and an initial process was developed at that time. In 1987, I published an important article that built on the process of the PA. In 2014 I began a revision of my article including new advances in the study of causes of death. I anticipate my article will be published in 2015. Having worked many cases I truly understand the agony that family members and others close to the deceased go through when they have legitimate questions regarding what exactly happened to their loved ones. In more than a few cases I have found coroners are a bit quick to label a death as a suicide as opposed to launching into a complex process that delays matters when, in fact, the person may have been murdered.

In the 1990s and later I had the good fortune to work at the Major Crimes section of the California Department of Justice with a talented police officer, now a Lt., Mike Prodan, doing PAs. I learned that relying on psychological science had great limitations and employing good police work with such things as ballistics, blood splatter, investigative techniques, DNA, toxicology data and many other modern techniques led to a greater chance of actually solving the mystery. The process is intense and detailed using computer models, psychological methods such as deducing a mental status examination on the deceased. There is an enormous amount of data collected and then a team sifts through it and comes to probabilities of the most likely cause of death. It is a process that I am committed to developing and working on in order to provide peace to families left with troubling questions about what happened to their loved ones.

NEW SYSTEM TO LABEL MEDS

According to an article in Medscape Psychiatry today there is a new and better system to classify psychotropic medicine. It uses a system of 4 different point. In the first point there is a description of biological target of the drug and the way it works. The second point would contain the reason the medication is used. The third point is the effectiveness and side effects while the fourth point is a description of the biology of the medicine in the brain. 

For example, take a drug like Celexa. Using the system it would be described as possible.

1) Targets Serotonin – making it more available in between nerve cells.

2) Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder (the reason for its use).

3) Generally improves symptoms of depression. Can cause drowsiness.

4) Works on neurotransmitters, the chemicals that help transit information from one neuron to another neuron.

Mental Illness and Prison

In doing my regular forensic work this past week I was reminded of the terrible condition our mental health system is in throughout the United States. After each tragedy in America that makes national news involving someone with psychological problems politicians, members of the news media, professionals and virtually all of the public call for a major overhaul of our mental health system. In reality, nothing changes. Public mental health systems are operating with the budgets of organizations from the 1980s.
It costs somewhere between 60 & 65 thousand dollars per year to house prison inmates. While we spend billions on prisons and thousands on mental health services we achieve very little. At one time the Sheriff of Los Angeles County noted he ran the largest inpatient mental health center in America. He wasn’t proud of it. Families often resort to acts of complete frustration using the criminal law system to get help for their loved ones suffering from mental illness. Estimates are that as many as 50% of the homeless suffer from severe mental illnesses.
Locking up those with mental illness makes as much sense as to put Americans with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia or chronic pain in prison.
I saw another aspect of things this past week. It entailed a convicted murderer with a long history of criminal acts doing life without the possibility of parole with no mental illness but getting in trouble to pass the time and faking a mental illness.
This is wrong! Are priorities as a nation are wrong.
In 1979 there were hundreds of thousands of dollars available for mental illness prevention and mental health promotion. In 2014 there are virtually NO dollars available for these services.
Yet, the most economically sound practice is to invest in a revolutionary new public mental health system with prevention and promotion programs. The chances of this coming from Congress in the foreseeable future is Zero.
And in 2014 advances in science have led to revolutionary methods of treatment of the severely mentally ill with both medication and targeted therapeutic measures. Thousands of studies have shown that the combination of medication and therapy are way better than each one individually.
Plus, there is little research dealing with modern methods of mental illness prevention.
It is extremely troubling to me to see all of the suffering that people endure who are plagued by mental illness.
So for the country, the states, the people in general, for social order and most importantly for the individuals with psychological disorders we must all demand more.