Beautiful insects (and other animals) made from old parts

Why Evolution Is True

Colossal shows some wonderful sculptures by a French artist in a post called “New Animal and Insect Assemblages Made from Repurposed Objects by Edouard Martinet.” (You can see more of these at Martinet’s website, here.) I’m showing just insects, but there’s a nice fish, too—all made from old parts taken from machines and stuff.

Sladmore Contemporary notes:

His degree of virtuosity is unique: he does not solder or weld parts. His sculptures are screwed together. This gives his forms an extra level of visual richness – but not in a way that merely conveys the dry precision of, say, a watchmaker. There is an X-Factor here, a graceful wit, a re-imagining of the obvious in which a beautifully finished object glows not with perfection, but with character, with new life. Martinet takes about a month to make a sculpture and will often work on two or three pieces…

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Creativity and Mood Stabilizers: To Take or Not to Take

The following was written for week 11 of Abnormal Psychology and is a response to the question:

We have evidence that highly creative individuals are at greater risk for mood disorders (especially bipolar disorder) than other individuals. Many creative people claim that mood stabilizers inhibit or “kill” creativity. If you were treating a highly creative individual with bipolar disorder (someone who had already made a substantial contribution in a creative field), would you insist that he or she comply with a mood stabilizing medication regimen? Why or why not?

(article by Dr. Shelly Carson linked below)


It is well known that creative people often suffer from a mental illness. According to Carson, research has shown 3 types of disorders to be most associated with the highly creative: mood disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and substance abuse disorders. Those who suffer from mood disorders are most likely to be diagnosed with one from the bipolar spectrum. Kay Redfield Jameson has shown us how difficult it is for someone with BD to remain on medication due to the distasteful side effects. It’s been reported that these medications may stifle, or even kill one’s creative thought process. For a highly creative person this becomes quiet the dilemma: take medication to control unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms, but lose creative drive; or stay off of medication, remain creative, but have to struggle to control potentially uncontrollable symptoms. This dilemma exists for the individual’s treater as well: do you force someone to take medication that would suppress a fundamental part of their personality, or livelihood, for the sake of relieving symptoms? When does symptom management outweigh preservation of the creative process?

You’re treating a highly creative person, someone who has already made a substantial contribution in their field, they present to you with severe Bipolar I and require mood stabilizers. After being on the mood stabilizers for a bit your patient tells you that they no longer wish to be on the medication because they feel it takes away their ability to think and create as they used to. For me the course of treatment would depend on the severity of their symptoms, the degree to which they’re impaired, and how their vulnerability and protective factors manifest. If the patient’s symptoms were moderate, I would be open to having a discussion about alternatives for mood regulation, such as CBT and ACT. If their symptoms were more severe or the level of impairment was very high, the conversation would perhaps be geared more toward reducing rather than stopping the mood stabilizer.

Carson lists reduced latent inhibition, novelty seeking, and neural hyperconnectivity under shared vulnerabilities of creativity and psychopathology; and low IQ, working memory deficits, and perseveration as risk factors. Protective factors include high IQ, working-memory skills, and cognitive flexibility. In discussing shared vulnerabilities, Carson mentions that creative people may depend on these to enhance their work, but may also use them to work through their psychopathy.

Learning to interpret the potentially inappropriate signals a highly creative person receives in new or different ways might allow that person to successfully remain medication-free. For example, someone with BD could feel as though they experience a flight of ideas, or that their thoughts are going very quickly. They could practice reining in these ideas/thoughts with mindfulness exercises; the goal being able to identify an idea, hold onto it long enough to create something, then move on to the next idea without getting distracted by competing thoughts or urges.

If someone is unable to manage their symptoms effectively without medication, keeping their creative impulse may weigh too heavily against simply being able to function in life. No matter what kind of contribution, if any, they’ve made to their field, safety and functionality is more important than the pursuit of creativity. If only temporarily, a medication regime should be kept to until a person can learn to control their symptoms.

Carson – Shared vulnerability

Carson, S.H. (2011). Creativity and psychopathology: A shared vulnerability model. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(3), 144-153.

Critique: Mann et al. – Candidate Endophenotypes of Suicidal Behavior

This is a thought paper for my Self-Destructive Behaviors class, and is a critique on a paper entitled “Candidate endophenotypes for genetic studies of suicidal behavior” written by Mann et al, linked below.


The purpose of Mann et al (2009) was to elect possible endophenotypes in studying the genetics of suicidal behavior. A review of this nature was called upon due to the difficulty in identifying specific suicide-related genes. Four endophenotypes were named: trait aggression/impulsivity, early-onset major depression, neurocognitive function, and cortisol social stress response. In order to determine if a factor is indeed a valid endophenotype, Mann defined five criterion that must be met: 1) association with illness in the population; 2) heritability greater than 20%; 3) primarily state-dependent; 4) co-segregation of illness and the endophenotype in families; and 5) found in non-affected family members more frequently than in the general population.  The review elicited material from a number of different types of studies, including but not limited to psychological autopsies; twin, adoption, and family studies; cognitive functioning exams; and medical testing. Missing from most sections was the fifth criterion, a comparison of nonaffected relatives and the general population.

Interestingly, impulsivity was said to be too broad of a term, at least in genetic studies. It was broken down into three categories: response initiation, which related to suicide attempt history; response inhibition, which has yet to be linked with suicidal behavior (but is with conduct disorder); and consequence sensitivity, which differentiates attempters from nonattempters in self-injury patients. Breaking down impulsivity into its components is a much more effective way to glean information regarding suicidal behavior in a given individual. This could lead to an interesting avenue of study regarding the exact nature of impulsivity and its effect on suicidal behavior, as well as NSSI. Further inquiry could be taken into questioning whether the components are triggered by early-life events, or they are preformed in the combination of certain genomes, possibly leading to more information on the etiology of suicide attempts, conduct disorder, and NSSI. By far, not as much information was provided regarding early-onset major depression, neurocognitive function, and cortisol response to psychosocial stress.

Future implications of this study include easier prediction and tracking of symptoms and warning signs in a person with a known family history of suicidal behavior or psychopathy; and more effective and efficient delivery of interventions. For instance, if a child who had a family history of suicidality were observed to exhibit impulsive characteristics, in particular if he or she appeared to lack sensitivity to consequences, interventions to amend this deficit could be implemented early in life, such as a heavy focus on planning positive goals. Encouraging investment in one’s future may serve to make up for a genetic predisposition to be unable to appreciate the costs of one’s actions. A similar technique could be applied to breaking some of the rigidity associated with attentional fixation, as well as developing the skill to create novel solutions to problems, so suicide doesn’t chronically appear to be the only way out. If a person is more predisposed to act in a maladaptive way due to genetics then perhaps purposeful development of psychological hardiness will serve as a protective factor.


Mann, J. J. et al. (2009). Candidate endophenotypes for genetic studies of suicidal behavior. Biological Psychiatry, 65, 556-563.


Schizophrenia and Civil Rights

The following is a weekly response paper written for the 10th week of my Abnormal Psychology class; papers are based on questions asked at the end of lecture every week.

Question: The issue of individual civil rights for the seriously mentally ill is a major controversy today. Do you feel that schizophrenic patients should ever be institutionalized against their will? Do you feel they should be medicated against their will? If you answer yes, under what conditions should the decision be made and who should have the authority to make this decision?

the brain

Schizophrenia (SCZ) is a devastating psychotic disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior. People diagnosed with SCZ are often severely impaired by these symptoms, lacking the ability to judge reality correctly, and even the ability to care for themselves at the very basic level. Treatment is an intensive combination of medication, psychosocial, and social therapies, all of which more than likely will have to be continued for the remainder of a person’s life. Given the very nature of SCZ, obtaining consent for such interventions becomes a complicated issue. Though a person’s treaters, or family and friends may believe receiving care for such a serious psychiatric illness is a healthy and positive choice, the only one capable and responsible for making that decision is the patient him/herself. What happens when that person becomes incapable of making responsible decisions in regards to their psychiatric care? Should this point exist?

When a person diagnosed with SCZ is found to be a danger to themselves and/or others it means that the presentation of the disorder is such that it would be irresponsible for professionals to allow that individual to continue living in the general population in their current state without some sort of intervention. This intervention could manifest via medication and/or institutionalization, and may occur against the individual’s will. Examples of “irresponsible” situations include making threats, violent behavior, and criminal acts. “Professionals” include anyone capable of adequately assessing the mental status of a person with SCZ, a psychologist, psychiatrist, MD, etc, as well as those who would be involved with the legal process, such as police and lawyers. The difference between a person with SCZ and a criminal being “locked up” is sanity, both at the time of the crime as well as at trial; sanity being the legal term referring to the ability to judge right from wrong. Oftentimes a person with SCZ is not sane, and unless medicated cannot accurately judge if their actions are safe for the situation and based in reality.

Once medicated, however, a person with SCZ can become lucid and able to distinguish the meaning of their actions. At this time a person may decide that being medicated is something they genuinely wish not to be, and may even sign a legal document to that effect. This poses an interesting avenue of civil rights for the mentally ill: choosing to remain ill; rather, choosing to abstain from intervention/relief from symptoms. A person of sound mind certainly has the right to decide whether or not they want to be on medication or not, but if a person with a life-long mental illness chooses not to be medicated for said illness is this a decision the person made, or is the decision a symptom of the illness?

The ultimate question becomes whether or not to trust someone with SCZ to have a sound mind if a medication-free lifestyle is something they value. I do think there are times at which a person with SCZ should be medicated or institutionalized against their will, such as the instances highlighted above. If a person is too sick to understand the dangerous effect they are having on themselves and/or others, I believe it is the responsibility of others to keep that individual and others safe. It is necessary to deprive this individual of some freedoms, especially if their right to remain medication free encroaches on the rights of others. This freedom deprivation should only last until such a time until the individual is able to understand the consequences of their actions; at which point safety and sanity should be reassessed, and further, less invasive treatment options should be presented. Important considerations include repeat offenders and severity of actions committed when not of sound mind.


Critique – Prinstein et al.: Peer Influence and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

This is a thought paper I did for my Self-Destructive Behaviors class. Weekly thought papers are loose critiques of that weeks readings designed to help us get more out of research papers and literature reviews, as well as become better writers of such. Prinstein et al paper linked at the bottom.

The purpose of Prinstein et al’s (2010) paper was to discuss two studies focusing on peer influence as a risk factor for adolescent NSSI. The      topic was that, longitudinally, an adolescent’s NSSI would be associated with their friend’s NSSI; additionally, it was stated that this effect        would be stronger in females and in the youngest of participants.

The first study surveyed students at a public middle school, grades 6-8, and their best friend in their grade level, with questions relating to      their own NSSI and depressive symptoms. Measures were taken at the initial point, then again 11 months later. The second utilized                  adolescents ages 12-15 recruited from a psychiatric inpatient facility who answered questions assessing their own NSSI and depressive            symptoms, as well as their perception of their friend’s depressive/self-injurious thoughts and/or behaviors. Measures were taken initially,      then again at 9 and at 18 months post-baseline.

These measures appear to have been appropriate and lend support to their respective hypotheses, but I do think they need to be                    considered together in order to achieve a full picture of the issue at hand. Taken individually there are too many limitations for each result    to be adequately applied globally. They each kind of pick up where the other left off.

The first study found the hypothesis applied solely to girls and the 6th graders; boys, 7th and 8th graders did not have any association. The    lack of association with boys brings up an issue regarding the socialization of boys and a tendency to keep emotions hidden, thus                    reducing the likelihood of reporting NSSI or depressive symptoms to friends. This may be an interesting area for further study, particularly    because it could imply an important missed treatment opportunity for adolescent boys. However, because the second study had similar      findings it may lend more support to the idea that NSSI is a means by which adolescents regulate emotions. Boys and girls have different

emotional regulatory strategies; talking and sharing of feeling is much more common for girls, and because of a demonstrated imitative effect (as discussed in the second study) females would be more likely to exhibit more NSSI due to the amount of exposure they would have to it as compared to males.

The second study found that if an adolescent engages in NSSI at baseline they are likely to have an increased perception that their friends are exhibiting depressive symptoms at the next measurement; additionally, if, at baseline, an adolescent perceives that their friends are exhibiting depressive symptoms they are more likely to engage in NSSI at the next measurement. This implies the possibility of a reliable timeline for predicting and finding potential interventions for NSSI and related symptoms. It also shows a need for further discussion of the effect of perception of the way an adolescent’s friends feel on that adolescent’s behavior

Peer conformity and body language as evidence of approval is also discussed. This lends evidence toward the imitative effect of NSSI among peers. It would be interesting to discover the incidence of adolescents who engage in NSSI via a peer-pressure mechanism as a primary motivator. Peer-pressure may be too strong of a term; however, to engage in such behavior for these reasons would demonstrate a marked vulnerability to social pressures and might be a predictor for some other psychiatric illness, or a predictor for future self-destructive behaviors. Additional measures could include desire for approval, attention seeking behaviors, self-esteem, and reassurance-seeking behaviors.


Prinstein, M. J. et al. (2010). Peer influence and nonsuicidal self-injury: Longitudinal results in community and clinically referred adolescent samples. J of Abnormal Psychology, 38, 669-682


Road Trip 2012

Just arrived back from a 4-day road trip from Dallas, TX to New York, New York, for a total of 1,843 miles. Totaling the mileage of 2011 and 2012, that’s 9,394 miles! Both were completed in a Chevy Malibu Hybrid.

Map of road trips 2011 (black) and 2012 (blue)


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All photos by Paige Connors

Daily Inspiration: Collar Bones, Yoga, and Dance

Collar bones are my favorite part of the human body. I’m not certain why, but I just find them to be so beautiful. And while we’re celebrating these beautiful bones I figured I’d sprinkle in some great ways to get fit, i.e. yoga and dance.


Rooney Mara - Dazed & Confused by Glen Luchford, January 2012


Betty Compson


Camel pose


Half moon pose


Angelina Jolie, by Marc Hom wearing the Betony Vernon Petting Ring




Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire