Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where art meets neuroscience

Last week's issue of the journal Nature had such a striking cover, that I couldn't help but pick one up off of the newsstand despite that fact that I can view the articles electronically at work.  The cover revealed that the focus of the issue would be schizophrenia, a disease where the causes remain poorly understood in the scientific community, and the symptoms even less so in the mainstream.  Many people often confuse schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder despite the fact that the most prominent symptoms of schizophrenia are paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations, not multiple personalities.  Also, most people are generally unaware of the fact that schizophrenia typically manifests itself during late adolescence or early adulthood, which means that many who have schizophrenia can feel perfectly normal throughout their teens and even twenties before descending into the throes of this terrible disease.  There are, however, some promising discoveries being made, and, hopefully, they will lead to progress in treatments or even prevention of the disease, which is estimated to affect nearly 1 percent of the world's population.  At the nature website, you can check out many of the articles from the issue online which do a good job of summarizing some of the progress and many of the obstacles to understanding schizophrenia.  Of course, I started all of this by talking about art and neuroscience, and the cover of the magazine, the main portion of which is shown above.  The painting, which is credited to Rodger Casier, is an example taken from the NARSAD Artworks program which provides "museum quality art by artists whose lives share or have shared the bond of mental illness".  The program is an interesting one, not only raising awareness of mental illness by showcasing the artwork of those who have suffered or still suffered from some form of mental illness, but also raising money for mental health research as well.  I will have to check out the site a little more to see what's available (even just to look at), but in the meanwhile, with the holidays coming up, it may be a good place to go if you need to get some greeting cards (like the ones pictured below).

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