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Category Archives: Forensic Psychiatry

Is There A Genetic Basis For Violence?

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Is there a genetic make up that leads people to commit violent acts? Probably. Is it a simple “if this then that” connection? Not likely. But we are each a product of our genetic make up and our environment. That includes everything from medical issues such as heart disease and diabetes, to success in the arts such as music and writing, to our basic personality and the way we deal with others.

New research suggests that the elusive “warrior gene” might exist and it might result from defects in two genes: The MAOI gene and a variant of the cadherin 13 (CDH 13) gene.

Wish it were that simple but this is interesting research.

Here are few articles on this research:

BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29760212

Telegraph UK: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/11192643/Violence-genes-may-be-responsible-for-one-in-10-serious-crimes.html

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/two-genes-found-linked-to-tendency-for-violent-crime-9824061.html

Also, I posted on this back in June, 2010:

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/dangerous-dna-the-warrior-gene/

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues

 

Do the Phases of the Moon Alter Sleep Patterns and Behavior?

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The full moon makes people crazy. Don’t believe it? Ask any Emergency Room MD or nurse. Full moons always bring out the crazies and the most bizarre circumstances. Common things present in odd fashions; odd things become downright bizarre. Can’t prove that scientifically but experience suggest it’s a fact.

During my medical training at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, you could count on having a busy and eventful day (and night) during the full moon. If you added that to a payday weekend, you had a recipe for chaos. The “Friday-night Knife and Gun Club” was especially busy on pay weekends and under full moons.

Probably has to do with tidal shifts in the brain or something like that. Excess water in your brain pan is never a good thing.

One example is The Bean. He’s our Bengal cat. Nocturnal and noisy by nature, he often gets completely out of hand around the full moon. We call it Moon Bean.

The Bean

The Bean

Now research done at the University of Gothenberg in Sweden suggests that the cycles of the moon alter sleep patterns. If so, these cycles might also alter behavior. Poor sleep leads to poor decisions, labile emotions, altered perceptions (see previous post), reduced hand-eye coordination, diminished attention, and these can in turn lead to mistakes—-many of which will land you in the ER. Never a good place to be.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues

 

Does Lack of Sound Sleep Alter Memories And Perceptions?

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Ever had a dream so vivid that it seemed too real to be a dream? Or awakened all fuzzy headed after a night of fractured sleep? So fuzzy that you couldn’t remember where the coffee maker was? Of course you have. We all have.

But do altered sleep patterns effect your perception of reality? Cause a blurring of the boundary between dreams and real life? Create false memories? Maybe so.

A recent article by Art Markman, MD in Psychology Today discusses a study jointly done by the University of California, Irvine and Michigan State University where these relationships were explored. The study findings suggest that the sleep-deprived brain is not to be trusted.

Though no longer with us, The Nut had no such sleep or memory problems

Though no longer with us, The Nut had no such sleep or memory problems

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Police Procedure

 

Crime and Science Radio: Inside The Creative Mind: An Interview With Psychotherapist, Screenwriter, and Novelist Dennis Palumbo

Join Jan Burke and DP Lyle on Saturday 10-18-14 at 10 a.m. Pacific as they discuss psychology and storytelling in both novels and on the screen with veteran screenwriter/novelists Dennis Palumbo

DPalumbo

BIO: Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out (John Wiley). His work helping writers has been profiled in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ and other publications, as well as on CNN, NPR and PBS. He also blogs regularly for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His acclaimed series of crime novels (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors and the upcoming Phantom Limb) feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.  All are from Poisoned Pen Press.

LISTENhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/09/30/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-dennis-palumbo

LINKS:

Website: http://dennispalumbo.com

YOU SEE DEAD PEOPLE? BIG DEAL. JOIN THE CLUB: http://dennispalumbo.com/articles-dennis-palumbo/you-see-dead-people/

Taking The Mystery Out Of Writing Mysteries: http://dennispalumbo.com/take-the-mystery-out-of-writing/

Is Your Psycho Killer Just . . . Psycho?: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-palumbo/writing-tips-for-mystery-books_b_1450589.html

From Spec Script to the Big Screen—It Can Happen To You!: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-palumbo/from-spec-script-to-the-b_b_4881332.html

Who (And What) Defines Normal?: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-palumbo/definition-of-normal_b_1149362.html

Hollywood On The Couch: Going the Distance: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-palumbo/hollywood-on-the-couch-go_b_779917.html

Through A Glass Darkly: Crime Fiction as a Window on American Culture: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-palumbo/through-a-glass-darkly-cr_b_494065.html

BOOKS:

NightTerrorsfrontforaupromo copy

http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/night-terrors/

http://www.amazon.com/Night-Terrors-Daniel-Rinaldi-Mystery/dp/1464201315

PhantomLimbcover copy

http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/phantom-limb/

http://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Limb-Daniel-Rinaldi-Mystery/dp/1464202567

 

Frankenstein and Creativity

Dr. Frakenstein

An interesting article recently appeared in The Atlantic on the origins of creativity and whether it is innate or can be learned: “Can Creativity Be Learned?” by Cody C. Delistraty. It makes for interesting reading and raises some intriguing questions. For example, creative folks tend to have more grey matter in the right posterior middle temporal area of their brain. Is this what makes them creative or does this result from them flexing their “creative muscle”? Chicken or egg?

Temporal Lobe

The author uses Mary Shelly and her classic horror story Frankenstein to underline his points.

In a past post on this blog I briefly talked about how Mary Shelly’s classic story came about. Here is an except:

On a literary and historical note, Frankenstein might never have been written had it not been for a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world. In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted with such force that it filled the air with millions of tons of ejected particulate matter. This rose into the high atmosphere, dropped world temperatures for many months and resulted in 1816 being called the “Year Without Summer.” Snow fell in New England in July!

During that summer, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, her lover and future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron settled into Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva. The summer was so cold and wet that they spent much of their time in the villa talking and telling stories. They decided to have a writing contest and see who could write the best short story. Mary’s story evolved into the classic Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus.

There has long been controversy over how Mary came up with such a story, She said it came to her in a “waking dream,” but some have suggested that her father had told her stories of a doctor who did such experiments and others have suggested that she and Shelley had actually visited Castle Frankenstein, the birthplace of Johann Conrad Dippel, a physician and alchemist who did indeed perform reanimation experiments on corpses. Either way she wrote a kick-ass story that has survived for nearly two centuries and will survive for many more.

The full post can be found here: http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/more-decapitation-and-reanimating-the-dead/

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues, Writing

 

Mom Knows You’re Lying

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Remember how it seemed that your Mom always knew when you were lying? 

No, I swear, I didn’t do it. 

And then she’d give you that look. The one that melted all your protestations of innocence. Seems to be a universal thing.

In a recent article in Psychology Today, titled “A 9-Item Test to Find Out Who’s Lying to You,” Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne discusses the clues that reveal deception.

I’m sure my Mom knew all of these. Heck, she probably could have written this article.

 

Visine and Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy

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Visine is a useful medication. I use it all the time. When the Santa Ana’s blow in SoCal and the temperature rises, the humidity falls, and eyes dry out, Visine works very well. When used properly it is very safe and effective—-but, if used improperly, it can be a deadly poison.

Actually, anything can be deadly. The difference between a drug and a poison is simply a matter of dose. What can cure, can harm; what can harm, can kill. It’s really that simple.

The active, and dangerous, ingredient in Visine is tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride. If ingested in sufficient amounts, it can cause an elevation in blood pressure, a drop in heart rate, a reduction in body temperature, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, blurred vision, seizures, coma, and death, to name a few effects.

The case of Samantha Elizabeth Unger underlines this danger. Seems she poisoned her two children by adding the medication to their juice. And may have done so multiple times—-which could indicate that this is a case of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy—a psychiatric disorder in which parents harm children in order to garner attention and sympathy. Odd, but not rare.

Recently on Crime and Science Radio, Jan Burke and I interviewed Beatrice Yorker, the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at California State University, Los Angeles and a renowned expert in Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. Take a listen and check out some of the links for more info on the fascinating topic.

 

 
 
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