John Muir Project: Hard Evidence for Environmental Influences on Mental Illnesses

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Thought map written today about bipolarity and being a human being.

Please forgive the typographic errors and the grammatical errors, I am trying a new writing methods where I just write exactly what comes to mind.  I will edit this piece of the draft for chapter 1 in future posts as I extend the length of the text.  I have to stop writing for today, and I prefer to post what I have so far on my 500 words for the day.

     A recent review in Nature highlighted to state of the art knowledge regarding the link between environment and one particular mental illness, schizophrenia.[1]  The authors of the article pointed out, “Psychotic syndromes can be understood as disorders of adaptation to social context.  Although heritability [genetic factors] is often emphasized, onset is associated with environmental factors such as early life adversity, growing up in an urban environment, minority group position and cannabis use, suggesting that expose may have an impact on the developing ‘social’ brain during sensitive periods.”  Here I focus on a close analysis of one of the most well established environmental factors associated with the emergence of schizophrenia is living in an urban environment (urbanicity).  Studies known as “meta-analyses” suggest current city dwellers have a statistically significantly increased chance of developing anxiety disorders (21 % increase) and mood disorders (39% increase).[2],[3]  For schizophrenia, there is twice as likely chance for developing the condition for individuals born and raised in cities.[4]  Neuroanatomical studies have recently identified a nucleus in the brain associated with the influence of city living and urbanicity on areas of the brain associated with social dynamics processing.[5]  From a philosophical perspective, one interpretation of these data is that the brain, and therein the mind, is in an intimate relationship with the environment.  It is impossible to deconvolve environmental from biological influences on brain function because the mind and the environment constitute a unified whole.

This assertion is a central component of a recent book by Liah Greenfeld entitled Mind, Modernity, and Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience.  In this book Greenfeld seeks to elucidate the nature of the relationship between the biological brain and the social network of humanity.  To accomplish this daunting task, she carefully defines the nature of the mind-body problem as a three tiered interdependent system.  The first tier is the material.  The realm of matter is the sphere of atoms, molecules, solids, gases, and liquids.  Intimately linked the world of matter is the sphere of the organic.  The organic reality of matter is the reality of life.  Material elements self-assemble to promote the dynamics of life; life is an emergent property of matter.  Lastly, ay the intersection between the organic layer of life and the symbolic is the sphere of culture and mind.  This aspect of the mind-body relationship incorporates together as a holistic whole with the material and the organic to establish a seamless interdependent web of being.  Together, the mind-body relationship is defined in such a way that previously elucidated relationships between biological (genetic, neurochemical, and anatomical) are placed into close relationship with the culture.  Adopting this framework opens the door for cooperation between the sciences, the humanities, and the religious.

Microsoft Word File for Current Chapter 1 Draft:

[1] Os, Jin van; et al.  “The Environment and Schizophrenia.”  Nature, 468, 203-212.

[2] Lederbogen, F. et al. “City Living and Urban Upbringing affect Neural Social Stress Processing in Humans.”  Nature, 474, 498-501.

[3] Schoevers, P. et al.  “The Current Status of Urban-Rural Differences in Psychiatric Disorders.”  Acta Psychiatr. Scand.  121, 84-93.

[4] Krabbendam, L. et al.  “Schizophrenia and Urbanicity: A Major Environmental Infleunce-Conditional on Genetic Risk.”  Schizophr. Bull. 31, 795-799.

[5] Lederbogen, F. et al. “City Living and Urban Upbringing affect Neural Social Stress Processing in Humans.”  Nature, 474, 498-501.

About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
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