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Monday, July 14, 2008

Jeff Schwartz lectures in Ireland on changing the troubled brain by changing the mind

Neuropsychiatrist Jeff Schwartz, Mario's colleague and lead author of The Mind and the Brain, has been lecturing in Ireland. According to Dick Ahlstrom, science editor for the Irish Times (July 11, 2008),
THE FANCIFUL notion of "mind over matter", where the mind can exert influence over the body, is not so fanciful after all. It is possible for the mind to impose lasting physiological changes on the brain to overcome psychiatric problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder.

So argues Prof Jeffrey M Schwartz, one of the world's leading proponents of mind over matter in a psychiatric sense, who was in Dublin yesterday to deliver a lecture at St Patrick's Hospital.
Ahlstrom talks about Schwartz's work treating obsessive-compulsive disorder - which highlights something I always stress when discussing non-materialist neuroscience: It is, first and foremost, a practical discipline.

Non-materialist neuroscientists like Schwartz and Beauregard are not trying to have a faculty common-room fight with materialist neuroscientists over abstract issues that begin and end in "ism." How would that help anyone?
Rather, they are concerned that many mental problems are not effectively treated when the brain is viewed materialistically as a pre-programmed machine - whose addled programming can somehow be knocked back into kilter by powerful drugs.

Non-materialists see the brain as the organ that connects our minds to life. Like any organ, it can have problems. Our minds can have problems too - we can have attitudes that are wrong and destructive.
That is not a brain problem, it is a mind problem. A mass murderer might have a perfectly healthy brain.

The non-materialist works with the patient whose behaviour is creating a problem, such as obsessive compulsions, to help change their mind. Then the mind changes the brain in the process, and thus the person's life changes slowly over time. Neuroscientists like Mario and Jeff have imaged this very process.

As Mario and I show in Chapter Six of The Spiritual Brain, non-materialist treatments work - and that is what keeps the non-materialist neuroscientist at work, despite much misunderstanding and occasional misrepresentation.

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