The Science of the Mind
by Gérard V. Sunnen, M.D.
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Reprinted from Kreskin, The Amazing Kreskin's Future with the Stars, Meyerbooks, Glenwood IL 2001.
As time soars into the third millennium, we intuitively realize that our lives will never be the same. The coming transformations affecting all domains of earthly life will have a direct impact upon fundamental notions concerning our existence and our innermost nature.
Strikingly pivotal, the 20th century has altered our essential view of our outer world--the earth and its ambient cosmos--and our inner world, the mind itself. In this transition from one millennium to the next, psychiatry, the nascent science of the mind, is following a sharp ascendant trajectory ln its culmination of discoveries and advances.
At the beginning of our 20th century, psychiatry stood alone as a renegade and frankly stigmatized discipline; it has now forged increasingly intricate connections to all known sciences, from neurology and biochemistry, to sociology, and even to atomic physics. If psychiatry is conceived as a science giving birth at the time of the new millennium, it will be doing so to novel and exhilarating concepts about the mind which, like the clearing of a fog, will allow an endless rainbow of new possibilities to show its brilliant colors.
Three such concepts deserve special attention. One has to do with the psyche's close interdependence with neuro-chemical events within the brain. The other concerns the important role neuronal genes have upon all mental expression--from mood to behavior. The third and by far the most elusive is interested in the relationship of the mind to the actual physical matter of the nervous system.
Within the last two decades, the capacity to picture events occurring in the brain, non-invasively and without discomfort to individuals, has grown remarkably in its sophistication and precision.
Freud himself stated that one day every thought would be physically traced in the brain at the moment of its occurrence. That time has come. The brain is showing its color-coded maps in even greater detail, and the pathways of its circuits in ever finer minutiae. Neuro-chemicals responsible for sustaining brain/mind functions are increasingly yielding their identities. Their sheer numbers and role in contributing to common psychiatrie conditions are constantly catalogued and elucidated.
Awaiting us is a psychiatry armed with an army of highly specific medications geared to the particular condition afflicting the unique individual involved. This pinpoint accuracy will revolutionize the therapy of all mental disturbances. Serious long-standing depressions, for example, could foreseeably be treated by the administration of rapid treatments resulting in a quasi-instantaneous resolution of all symptoms.
The "New Psychopharmacology" is poised to offer potent instruments for humanity's gravest psychiatric ills. In counterpoint, it will be applied to enhance already "normal" mental states by encouraging the expression of such vital dimensions of the mind as memory, self esteem, joy and creativity.
Concurrently, and almost antithetically, these same advances will facilitate the creation of molecules capable of altering brain furictions in adverse fashion. New and overwhelmingly powerful hallucinogens and psychedelics will easily find their way into our knowledge base. These agents will have the capacity to metamorphose the sense of self, to alter belief systems and to favor the propensity to emit predetermined behaviors. Special caution in controlling their use will be imperative, lest they be employed to malignant ends.
The discovery of the nervous system is much like that of our universe. The more we see, the more there is to see. Insight is an ever more varied and detailed neuronal cartography, a cumulating awareness of the phantasmal sophistication of our neural networks, and an appreciation of how the protein microchips in our neurons--our genetic cryptogram--dynamically undulates with every electrochemical wave within our nervous system. The science of creating neurons from cell cultures, adapting them to specialized tasks, and non-injuriously directing them to specific areas in the nervous system will counteract many neurological and psychiatric syndromes, as it will equally be applied to enhance fitness. In time, our ability to work with neuronal genes--replacing, inserting, Deleting and modulating them--will give individuals the Opportunity to permanently alter their mood states, their psychological abilities and the expression of their everyday comportments.
While established psychiatric conditions, known since antiquity, such as schizophrenia and manic depressive illness will find therapeutic solutions, because they are strongly biologically driven, many other mental disharmonies will need further exploration and definition. This derives from the fact that an increasing spectrum of psychiatric conditions are being identified. It is now appreciated, for example, that there exist numerous kinds of depressions, and many varieties of anxiety disorders. The same implies to all other psychiatric diagnoses. In addition, as societies become more diverse and variegated, and play a role as harbingers of novel stressors, new syndrome are literally in the process of being created. From the appearance of "pure" hysterical reactions in the 19th century to the emergence of eating and sleeping disorders in the last decades of the 20th century, the new millennium will spawn psychiatric syndromes never exhibited before.
It is interesting to note in this regard that even with the spectrum, of psychiatric treatments available today, the prevalence of all psychiatric disorders (except for schizophrenia) is increasing-- depression, phobias, anxiety, affective illness, drug addiction, suicide, and aggressive disorders--a disturbing trend. Is the pace of modem life outdistancing the assistance psychiatry can provide?
Psychotherapy, the science of self-discovery and personal change will not disappear. Instead, it will evolve rapidly to become more focused and efficient. Techniques developed by other disciplines will provide this noble science with innovative tools. The use of virtual reality and interactive technology will greatly assist individuals in finding consonance in themselves and within the milieu of their increasingly multifaceted social environment.
On a social scale, as our planet comes to develop increasing compassion towards humanity's psychiatric travails, concerted efforts will emerge to assist communities and populations in crisis. A global network capable of psychiatrically aiding all people confronted with wars, epidemics, and natural calamities will evolve naturally from pure necessity. The expertise of the new science of societal dynamics will be called upon to assist in the resolution of national strifes, and in our third millennium, amidst some initial international turbulence, we will see the establishment of a world body whose mission will draw upon humanity's new grasp of social science wisdom to prevent catastrophes.
The next--and doubtlessly not the last--great frontier of psychiatry concerns the mind itself. What factors make the special phenomenon of experiencing thought and emotion an experience and not a robotic event? Although influenced by biochemical events, does being aware of one's own awareness make for a separate and distinct attribute of the mind? Does mind, as a miracle in its own right, belong to dimensions which, in spite of ail our scientific sophistication, have still deftly eluded our scientific grasp? The spirit of the mind, much like the nature of our cosmology remains one of the most incandescent scientific questions in which the coming centuries will hopefully bestow their generous enlightenment.
In our lifetime, we will see astounding transformations affecting our environments, our bodies, and our minds. The conceptual caravans of the last millennia are giving way to rocket crafts. The possibilities of psychiatric sciences will pulverize our imagination as the secrets of the mind are extracted from the labyrinths of its bodily connections. In order to keep pace gracefully with the great changes that are to come, we will need to create innovative life philosophies and quantum vaults in our spiritual perspectives.
Reflections on Gerard V. Sunnen, M.D.
by The Amazing Kreskin
I have known Dr. Sunnen since he was a young man. I first met him when he accompanied his father to visit me. The discussion that day was their interest in the beneficial aspects of "hypnotic" techniques. Since that day, Dr. Sunnen and I have become good friends. He has attended many concerts of mine and written some beautiful reflections about my activities. It has given me a great source of satisfaction to have had some influence in the direction his life has taken. His background is simply incredible. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at New York University, the founder and Honorary President of the International Association for Emergency Psychiatry, as well as a member of two international clinical hypnosis organizations.
I have incorporated into this book the extensive commentary of Dr. Sunnen because I find his projections on psychiatry to be fascinating. I have said many times that I possess a lack of enthusiasm for psychiatrists, but Dr. Sunnen is one eminent exception. I value his opinions and his views.
His projections, and in some manner, his warnings, are based on how our view of the outer world has changed, and how psychiatry has expanded with it. His remarks describe neuro-chemical events in the brain and the role of neuron genes on our mental moods. His comments go on to talk about the great question of the relationship between the mind and the actual physical matter of the nervous system. Sunnen points out that Freud has stated that one day every thought would be physically traced in the brain at the moment of its occurrence. Dr. Sunnen tells us that the time has come.
Additionally, Dr. Sunnen points out that drugs and chemicals are going to become an important weapon in the treatment of serious psychiatric ills. This would be a drastic advance, as these ills have not responded to psychotherapies or condition reflex approaches to treatment. Chemicals, powerful and overwhelming, will find their way into our knowledge base as methods in altering not only behavior, but in altering belief systems. This is almost terrifying. What would happen if this technology came into the hands of the ruthless, the evil or the paranoid dictators of the world?
I find very intriguing Dr. Sunnen's comment that certain psychiatric disorders are increasing in our society--namely depression, phobias, anxieties, drug addiction, suicide, and aggressive disorders. He rightfully considers this a disturbing trend.
What I find most awesome in the comments of Dr. Sunnen is the concept that a global network will have the capacity to psychiatrically treat people confronted with wars, epidemics and natural calamities. This is what we have read about in science fiction over the past five decades. Does this also suggest mass healing, techniques of mass tranquillity? Or does it suggest techniques of mass control and influence?
Finally, I note that I have known Dr. Sunnen to be more than just a psychiatrist, but a philosopher as well. He speculates on the unique quality that we have within us--the ability to think about what we are thinking. No other being seems to have this ability. I discussed this in my first book, the 1960 release "The Amazing World of Kreskin." I suggested that it must be frustrating for a psychologist to have to grapple with this. Sunnen speaks almost metaphysically about the miracle of the mind and how it has still alluded our scientific grasp. As he speaks of the spirit of the mind, I see how remarkably Dr. Sunnen shows himself not only for his great psychiatric skills, but also his spiritual nature. This raises him far beyond mere psychiatry. His remarks are to be reflected upon, for if they prove accurate it will be miraculous how they will change man.
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