Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More on Authenticity

There are is a couple of comments on my recent post.  Greg P., of Information is Free, included the following statement:
...So you put him on an SSRI, and he changes. He changes so much that suddenly the family has a different person they're taking home, like aliens came and replaced their husband/father. And to some extent, you're not sure they can adjust to the "new" guy...
That got me to wondering: if there is such a thing as authenticity of mind, who decides what the authentic state of mind is?  At first glance, it would seem that the person is question decides for himself or herself if his/her state of mind is authentic.  But the reaction that Greg mentions, suggests that perhaps it is the acquaintances of the person who decide what is authentic.  

By the way, it is unusual for there to be such a dramatic change, upon initiation of antidepressant treatment, but it does happen.  In fact, there is a condition known as pseudodementia, in which a person is thought to have dementia, but is in fact suffering from depression.  In such cases, antidepressant treatment can produce dramatic results.  

On a related note, there is a couple of articles (1 2) on Science News regarding the effects of exercise and diet on brain functioning.  Exercise is beneficial, of course, but what is less obvious is that there is evidence for a protective effect against the development of dementia.  
Out of the variety of neurotrophic factors released during exercise, however, scientists found that one in particular stood out: brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This protein seems to act as a ringleader, both prompting brain benefits on its own and triggering a cascade of other neural health–promoting chemicals to spring into action.
As detailed in the second article, the authors explain that omega-3 fatty acids may have a protective effect in cases of brain injury, and that they reduce the number of amyloid plaques in mouse models of Alzheimer disease.  Similarly, curcumin, a component of the spice, turmeric, also reduces amyloid plaques.  

It is not always valid to assume that what happens in rodents will have parallel effects in humans.   But regardless of the specifics, these studies demonstrate that, in general, it is possible for ordinary activities, such as exercise or the selection of certain types of food, to have significant effects upon brain function.  This again raises the question: if changes in brain function can lead to an inauthentic state of mind, then which changes are authentic, and which are not?