My Perspective on the Interview with Dr. Thomas Insel on BRAIN Disorders

Dr. James Amos with coffeeI thought it might be fun today to listen to an audio interview with the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Dr. Thomas Insel, conducted by Whitney McKnight for Clinical Psychiatry News. You can listen to it in the original article or in the Soundcloud widgets, although they may not work in iPads or iPhones.

You’ll recall that I mentioned Dr. Insel in a previous post which tried to address the question of whether all mental disorders are brain disorders. You don’t recall? How long have you been having this memory problem?

Anyway, I had to jog my own memory about Dr. Insel criticizing a bit too loudly the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 (DSM-5) categories compared to the NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC), leading to what has been identified as the Retraction of Snarky Comment Hey We’re All Good Phenomenon almost immediately.

But audio alone is not good enough; we need Research Domain YouTube to allow Dr. Insel to explain the “surreal complexity” of the brain, and he does it compellingly, as we would expect.

In the audio we again get a taste of what kind of collaborative skills psychiatrists will need in order to participate in the changing landscape of assessing, treating, and preventing brain disorders.

Working GiraffeWe’re going to have to learn how to talk with engineers and work with tools, mostly computers and other digital gadgets. Oh brother, I’ve talked about tools before and if this is the future, some of us are going to be in big trouble. And if we need power tools (which is highly probable), we’re going to need a lot of help.

WHKSI used to work for engineers and talking with them was challenging. Doctors and engineers will probably need to work very hard developing a common language allowing us to communicate about tool building in the next decade or so.

I’ll tell you one thing, my wife and I are definitely not into high-tech. We recently moved into a new house and our idea of securing the shower curtain rod includes something not unlike Red Green’s duct tape (the handyman’s secret weapon):

Shower curtain rod 2 Shower curtain rod 1

We’re going to need a lot of luck as well as collaborative skills. But sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I sometimes wonder if we could get by with more of a low-tech model. Dr. Insel suggests that maybe we need to step back and get the bigger picture. Now that sounds a lot like mindfulness and I think RDoC and Mindfulness research could go hand-in-hand. Practitioners of mindfulness usually are focused on the big picture. You have to start small, though, by training the mind not to wander–sometimes called “training the puppy to stay.”

Training the puppy to stay 2

Staaaay, Nipper; leave that ladybug alone.

Training the piggy to stay

Staaaay, piggy; back slowly awaaay from my coffee.



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