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.

FORENSIC ETHICS

First a bit about forensic psychology. The term forensic comes from another term that means “in the forum” and the forum is in some type of legal setting. Forensic ethics applies to the application of ethical principles to the work psychologists do in the Courts. Everyone stuggles with ethics just like everyone struggles with the right thing to do in complex situations. There are major codes of ethics applicable to forensic psychology but they don’t cover every circumstance. Plus in legal settings attorneys have a distinctly different role in a case from the psychologist. The lawyer is an advocate for the client. The psychologist’s job is to bring the scientific study of human behavior to the legal issue at hand. It is very easy to be caught up in the battle between the advocates. However, it is wrong to do so and the psyc. must maintain objectivity and focus on the data. Nowhere else is this a problem than in child custody disputes. These disputes and the legal system set up to deal with them often brings out the worst in parents. I have seen perfectly rational, logical and healthy people become irrational, illogical and unhealthy in dealing with child custody. It is quite tragic for everyone except that the environment is a breeding ground for ethical viruses. I have observed psychologists and other mental health professionals act unethical and contrary to the normal way in which they behave. The explanation is deeper than the money they make. The system itself is unhealthy in my opinion. Many professions have specific ethical principles that apply to child custody disputes. While very important they don’t stop unethical conduct. In one case I found a psychologist who was very threatened by the expertise and seniority of another psychologist and reacted to this in a bizarre and juvenile manner desperately trying to protect the turf that this psyc. had carved out for years in a small community. There are many disturbing aspects of this especially that misconduct in NOT in the best interests of the child!

LOSS OF A GREAT FRIEND AND FAMILY MEMBER

Today June 9th 2009 I returned from being overseas to find my dog Thunder dying. The exilleration of getting a puppy is nothing in the way of feelings to those in losing that pet almost 12 years later. He seemed to hang on waiting for to arrive home to say goodbye. Thunder was a Tatra and these dogs are incredible. They are gentle giants also known as Polish Mountian Sheepdogs. He was a trusted friend. We ran together, went for walks and after I was injured his loyalty was unwavering. He patroled our yard which has parts of it much like the terrain of his homeland. I did step in and end his suffering. It has been an extremely painful and agonizing and there are no words that make a real difference. I am having him cremated and will use them to grow a tree. Thunder was a dog who communicated with his eyes and his body. Tatras are a breed that herds by using their bodies to push the sheep to the proper place. He often met me by pushing me gently and when I stopped petting him he would tell me it wasn’t enough by using his head and body to ask for more. They are amazing animals. When they guard sheep in the mountains they work as a group and lie down while the sheep are standing. But when a wolf comes to attack the sheep they rise and go to work. I have never had or met a more loving animal than Thunder. The sadness is overwhelming. I shall always remember Thunder who had an impact on everyone he met. Tonight I sit here in mourning, sad, filled with emotional pain and wishing he was still here. Enjoy the precious moments with your animals as time passes all too fast. Tonight I remain overwhelmed with the loss of a friend and family member.

FRIENDSHIP

Friendship is a rather interesting phenomena. Who are friends are and what we do to maintain our friendship often reflects significantly on us as individuals. This is a story; one that is true. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and actually lived in the City for a while. I met my first friend when I was about 6 months old. My next friend I met when I was 3 years old. I grew up in the same neighborhood with a group of friends, some of whom are friends to this day. However, over the years I left the Chicago area and moved around. A small group decided to share a vacation time in Lake Tahoe every other year. My friend Bob who I have known since we were 6 months old was one of them along with his wife. Another was a neighbor Bill who had been a friend since we were both young children. He and his wife Billy came to Tahoe for a week of fun. Another friend was Joe Jonas and his wife who I played in a band with in college. I drank alcohol in college and did my share of going to parties. As I got older and eventually became a professional I went to not drinking at all. Also, there was some drug use in the group that always made me terribly uncomfortable. I don’t use drugs. GIven my injuries and chronic medical problems matters came to a head about 6 years ago. We gathered for the usual Tahoe vacation and rented a place to spend time together. While there the group was doing an enormous amount of alcohol that, professionally, I ascertained could not possibly be consumed but for severe tolerance built in the neurochemistry of the brain. To my chagrin they were also smoking a great amount of marijuana outside on a deck that was elevated. I registered my complaint multiple times and noted I had more than one license to lose and begged they stop. Did they? Of course not. When one is so self absorbed that the needs of friends cannot be perceived the proverbial door is shut. Then things escalated. My friend Don asked me to provide him with some of the narcotics I use for pain management that are prescribed. I said NO! So he stole some pills. I discovered it and demanded he return them. He didn’t. So with drinking night and day, use of drugs night and day I was separate from the group. After they left I wrote a series of emails expressing my concern. I told Bill and others that he was an alcoholic and drug addict. He was in denial even though three weeks after he arrived home he got a DUI. There was a flurry of emails that went back and forth. I called it as I saw it and that was probably rough to take. The outcome was that lifelong friends split and no longer spoke to each other. Recently, in 2009 I reached out with emails and calls. No response. It appears the cross talk actually had an effect on everyone’s memories. Friendship is tough. Sometimes it is like a marriage. It is very important but there are times when friendships must end due to the failure of people to have insight and sensitivity toward their fellow man. (Names have been changed to affect the guilty)

FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGISTS

One person asked a question regarding why forensic psychologists participate in police abuses and that included conducting evaluations in prisons and jail. The question presupposes a premise that forensic psychs actually do participate in police abuses. As a group they do not. There may be a police psychologist somewhere who abuses his/her power but I have never seen it. In fact in California, inmates can refuse to see a psych. They are given informed consent and they usually raise the issue. In my region the psychologists carefully monitor the mental health of inmates and are vigilant of inmates and potential suicide attempts. It is very honorable profession with strict rules.

April 22, 2009 My Dog Thunder and Letting Go

I just arrived home from a business trip to Chicago. My dog Thunder is a Tatra, Polish Mountain Sheepdog. He is loyal friend and we have been through a lot together. The typical age of dogs from his breed pass away is 11-12 years. Thunder is 11 1/2 years and he is having trouble. I was convinced to have him undergo surgery on his leg to attempt to repair torn ligaments by a vet at the Loomis Basin Vet Clinic. The surgery failed and he has been failing since then. He is dying. There are times when he cries and while being a guardian of my yard in the past he has not left the house since his surgery. He shows signs of anxiety and pain. I am medicating him with pain and anti-anxiety meds. I contemplate when to let him go. It is a profound general topic for humans. When do we let go of a partner in marriage? When do we let go of a friend? When do we let go of a dream? At this point I can ask questions but lack answers. I do know with many choices, there is no ability to undo putting down a great friend like Thunder who has provided unconditional love and simply wanted time. I feel the pain in some ways knowing that he suffers. Despite his pain and anxiety he is still loving and seems to enjoy nothing other than time with me and other family members. There is no instruction manual for letting go of a family pet or a relationship along with other such decisions. There does seem to be a slow process like following a pathway with various turning points, some that lead to points of information, others that are dead ends. Right now I enjoy the silent moments I am about to have with my decade long friend. I leave this with the lingering question of what signs are present when it is time?