5 March 2020

Things that make us go … hmmmm

Mental Health RedHerring

In a solid entry for the “strange but true” file, your TMR ed has stumbled across the following fact: to the best of our medical knowledge, people who are congenitally blind will never develop schizophrenia.

What’s even more interesting is that nobody really knows why, which makes for some intriguing theorising.

For example, King’s College London psychiatrist Tom Pollack believes schizophrenia is linked to disruptions in the brain’s ability to model its surroundings and predict what will happen around it.

“There must be something different in the representation and the stability of the internal world in congenitally blind people,” Pollack was quoted as saying in Vice magazine. “And that stability, in a way, is keeping itself protective against the kind of mistakes and false inferences that you get in schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.”

Another psychiatrist, University of Rochester’s Steve Silverstein, says that can’t be the full story. He believes schizophrenia may be more rooted in cognitive deficits, such as disturbances in perception, attention and memory.

The compensations made by the brains of blind people seem to be the opposite of those with schizophrenia, he says. So the same thing that strengthens the brain of blind people, could potentially weaken the brains of people with schizophrenia in the reverse.

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