Master's Theses

Date of Award

Summer 2002

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies (MLS)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Committee Chair

Abstract

In an effort to understand more about mental illness, one must be able to comprehend the role of the mind or consciousness and the brain in order to determine the etiological factors of both schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder-MPD. The role of consciousness in determining sanity or insanity is one that has to be explored both in neurology and cognitive science in order to gain a better understanding of who we are as individuals and why we behave the way we do. That the mind or consciousness is the chief component in the case of serious mental conditions gives one an indication that the brain's role in mental illness is one that is secondary. Behavior is determined by the mind, and whether one exercises sane. Rational behavior as opposed to insane, irrational behavior is contingent upon our cognition. However, this by no means undermines the importance of the mechanisms of the nervous system-specifically, the brain. Without the brain as our chief physiological factor we would not have a field of psychological study. The reliance on the brain as a vessel for consciousness is important and of a neurological significance for studies in all fields of the natural and social sciences. In an exhaustive search of the literature, it is not surprising to discover that the role of consciousness has not been ignored completely. Yet, due to the vehement views of many behaviorist psychologists who ignored the mind as an unworthy entity of scientific scrutiny and the consternation of physiologists viewing consciousness as the brain, scientific research in consciousness studies is still in its infancy. The role of awareness of oneself and one's environment is our prime motivator in determining the mentally deficient individual's status in society; his perceptions may be classified as delusions, as in the schizophrenic, or his personality may be construed as split as in the MPD patient. However, both mentally inept individuals may be only experiencing another state of consciousness. The problems that neuroscientists, cognitive-behavioral psychologists, neurologists, and neuropsychiatrists have to confront is the importance of the mind as not only a determinant of mental imbalance but also one that can be used successfully to locate the causal factors of mental illnesses and abolish them, in the process. So far, medical science has not been able to find a panacea to cure schizophrenia and MPD, due to the limits of available research tools for the quantification of consciousness. In an effort, then, to solve the mysteries of the mind and mental illness, one has not only to delve into a philosophical framework to support one's cognitive theories but also to rely on the backbone of neurophysiology. This will, no doubt, give one a better understanding of consciousness. Secondly, to rely only on the nervous system to explain the mechanisms of consciousness would be absurd, for as wonderfully intricate as the central nervous system is, one requires an explanation of a system that explains how the mind works. The latter is given as proposed by a blueprint for a central consciousness system, one that may be able to explain, briefly, how mental imbalance is the breakdown of a functional set of variables that need to run efficiently at optimal condition similar to a biological homeostasis. The variables explored in this thesis will be the relations of consciousness to the neuro-physiological components of the brain. Specifically, I will address and propose an answer to the question of whether consciousness can interact with molecular structures, and in turn what may go wrong with respect to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and MPD. Additionally, can we attribute quantum-related effects on a cellular level to the flow of consciousness, and do these interfere with mental balance? The latter two questions may help us explain, perhaps, behavior that is manifested in an inappropriate manner. However, from a theoretical stance, correlations between consciousness and other phenomena may be assimilated into the argument to determine whether or not the dysfunctional behavior of the schizophrenic or MPD patient is psychologically inherent or environmentally external. Furthermore, is the mind or consciousness responsible for all behavior, and if so, are we able to attribute all the schizophrenics and MPD patient's symptoms to cognitive mechanisms? Other views that will be approached are all related to the role of consciousness and mental imbalance in two of the most serious mental conditions, schizophrenia and MPD. Views from researchers not only in cognitive science but also from both the social and natural sciences each addressing their own views will be detailed. Each field trying to accomplish and piece together something that has remained as impenetrable as the role of the mind is inspiring to both professional and layperson alike. A perusal of the literature shows that menial ailments have intrigued man throughout history: what has been socially deemed as inappropriate behavior in a culture or period of history may have not changed all that much. However, perhaps we have not been able to find the panacea for mental illness because cognitive science is still in its infancy of research. In other words, as we know much more of the physiological components of the nervous system than the psychological mechanisms of consciousness, we are unable to penetrate the interiors of the mind, due to a lack of knowledge about our mental behavior. We are able to analyze our behavior, for we may view it from the outside. Yet, we are still not able to comprehend why we act the way that we do from the inside. Accordingly, psychoanalysis may have been the closest to finding out the etiology of mental confusion. However, it has been condemned as scientifically inept from an empirical viewpoint: so, what has to be established is a system of consciousness that can be viewed as a reliable indicator of behavior. In the case of the schizophrenic and the MPD patient, one should be able to clarify behavior through different aspects of the mind relying on theoretical assumptions that can lay groundwork for scientifically testable hypotheses in future research.

Rights

Copyright 2002 Steven T. Kindsvater-Novak

Comments

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