Monday, May 30, 2011

Temple Grandin on Australian TV tonight

I believe that the Australian investigative journalism TV show Four Corners is scheduled to broadcast a story tonight about cruelty to Australian cattle in halal slaugherhouses in Indonesia. The autistic academic and slaughterhouse industrial designer Temple Grandin has been interviewed about this matter, and she has expressed her dismay that this could be happening to cattle from Australia. I share her dismay and shock. It makes me feel ashamed of being an Aussie.

I find the timing of this story to be most ironic, considering that it isn't too long since a book was released by a putative autism expert on the subject of cruelty and a lack of empathy, in which he categorized autistic people as having "zero degrees of empathy". Well, I ask, if Temple Grandin has no empathy at all, why does she give a damn, and why did she make a very successful career for herself by designing cattle-handling facilities right down to the finest details that are created with the aim of eliminating cruelty from the process of animal slaughter, a matter that most non-autistic people apparently do not think about very much. And why do I give a damn, a loner who appears to be on the spectrum also? And the big question is, why do so many apparently neurologically normal people not care in the least about animal cruelty? I expect no answers from the professor.

A Bloody Business
Reporter: Sarah Ferguson and Producer: Michael Doyle
Four Corners

Broadcast: 30/05/2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, empathy expert

This is an excerpt from a recently published piece of writing by Simon Baron-Cohen:

“A characteristic of anorexia that many clinicians and parents instantly recognize is the self-centred lack of empathy, even though this is not one of the diagnostic criteria. While her (although on occasions his) parents are besides themselves with worry as their child continues down the potentially fatal path of self-starvation, the girl herself may stubbornly insist that she is happy with her body shape and weight. She may insist on eating separately from the rest of the family, more concerned with counting calories and weighing food to the nearest milligram than in fitting in with the family group.”

Some tough talk from the prof. I haven’t read the whole book yet, and I may well not bother, so I don’t know whether the prof also advocates that other sufferers of delusional mental illnesses should stop behaving like crazy people and get with the program. Should we advise schizophrenics to tell “the voices” to rack off, and get a life? Should we follow the philosophy of Chopper and implore depressives to “Harden the f*** up”? I guess if they didn’t have mental illnesses they might well have a go at acting sensibly, and try to fit in. Or they might choose otherwise, as is their right, as long as no one is being hurt. I’d like to offer the suggestion that it might be the mental illness that is the problem, not the attitude or the social disconnection of the patient, but who am I, a mere housewife, to contradict the opinions of a Cambridge professor? Is this the professor who is supposed to be some kind of world expert on the subject of empathy? So far, in this book, I haven’t encountered much of it. The title seems very appropriate.

Baron-Cohen, Simon (2011) Zero degrees of empathy: a new theory of human cruelty. Allen Lane, 2011. p.106.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lili's thought for the day

Politicans routinely do TV media interviews flanked by fellow party members nodding solemnly in agreement with everything that the politician says. Pollies must surely believe that voters are a bunch of stupid sheep who will give more credence to the stuff that a politician says if it looks like there are other people agreeing with what she/he says. The politicians are probably right.

Neurosexism is compulsory!

Not long ago I was chatting in a casual setting with another mum, of about the same age as me (40-something). We had never met before. We talked about a variety of things, but there appeared to be a theme running through the conversation, that women are essentially more decent and moral beings than males. This appeared to be her belief, and she made it clear that she believed that there was solid evidence to support at least one aspect of her beliefs. I refused to buy the idea of female moral superiority, and I think my refusal might have upset the other lady.

This is a type of conversation that I have been involved with many times over the years whenever I have joined social get-togethers of mothers of primary school-aged children. Girls or women seem to be regarded as superior in one way or another. My recent conversation was the most explicit presentation of the "women are more moral" idea, but it seems to be a common belief among women. I don't buy it, for two reasons. Firstly, I don't believe that the study of this stuff has adequately separated the effects of sociological factors from biological factors, and secondly, when we assert that one gender has a natural advantage in morality, it lets the other gender "off the hook". If being an outsider from the society of Australian mothers is the price that I have to pay for refusing to believe in or going along with ideas of gender moral superiority, then that is a price that I am willing to pay. I never enjoyed the company of stupidity anyway.

(While I was writing this piece I was listening to the ABCTV show Big Ideas in which some authority figure speaker spoke about the "dangers of testosterone" and gender differences in accidental deaths and gender differences in immune function. There is no escaping the rubbishing of maleness!)

Lili's thought for the day

Males naturally lack empathy, and young boys won't ever develop much in the way of empathy unless they are explicitly taught it, by people who do have empathy, such as females and adults. Oh really? Today I've been trying to reassure a seven-year-old boy who was very distressed after his younger brother had a minor injury. I'm sure it wasn't fake distress for the sake of making a show of himself, or for the sake of appearances. I think the reason why this boy was so upset was that his injured brother's distress was clearly the real thing, and not a lot of show. Empathetic people respond to genuine distress, and fake people and fools respond to acting.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lili's thought for the day

Is the Slutwalk is all about an offensive comment made by a Canadian policeman? Could it possibly also serve the purpose of instructing new Islamic migrants about the rights of women in developed non-Islamic countries?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good Assange biography by Aussie journo

I haven’t been able to find the time to read Andrew Fowler’s new biography of Wikileaks creator Julian Assange from cover to cover, but the stuff that I have read has impressed me. It appears that Fowler has been able to draw from many important sources, including the man himself, for his book. The events in Assange’s life outlined in this book and also in the interview with Fowler by Paul Barclay give many clues about the possible origins of Assange’s attitudes towards the state, feminism and women. The book also gives an IQ score for Assange, and in my opinion one shouldn’t underestimate how much having such a high level of intellectual functioning can alienate a person from society in general. It is my opinion that Assange is a fine example of a famous person who appears to have a number of autistic traits, but whose life story is such that it is not possible to determine whether it is an essentially autistic neurology or a high IQ combined and an isolated childhood that made the person a definite outsider. Parents of children who have been identified (or one could say diagnosed) as highly or profoundly gifted should be very interested in Assange’s life story, although I don’t think any clear lessons can be drawn from it. Autism is mentioned in this book in relation to Assange, reporting that a journalist collaborator of Assange’s quoted Assange as once claiming to be somewhat autistic. This appears to be the same anecdote reported by Mark Hosenball last year. It is hard to judge how serious Assange was about this matter.

Julian Assange is one of the famous people in my big list of famous people who are or might be or might have been autistic. Unfortunately technical problems and a lack of time have prevented me from updating the badly out-of-date info about Assange in my list.

An amusing quote referring to Julian Assange by Fowler in an interview broadcast on Big Ideas:

“I like him at the moment - I haven’t spent enough time with him, quite clearly.”

Fowler, Andrew (2011) The Most Dangerous Man in the World: The inside story on Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks secrets. Melbourne Universty Press, 2011.

Barclay, Paul (2011) The Most Dangerous Man In The World. Big Ideas. Radio National ABC. April 14th 2011.
[an interview with Andrew Fowler about his book about Julian Assange, audio can be downloaded]

A referenced list of 175 famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum

Hosenball, Mark (2010) Special Report: Julian Assange versus the world. Reuters. December 13th 2010.
[includes a claim that Assange has described himself only partly in jest as somewhere on the autistic spectrum]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Personal disclosure statement from the author

I know that a lot of the material that one can find on the web that takes an anti-psychiatry stance originates from the Church of Scientology or that organization's followers. I am not a Scientologist, and I have no personal or financial ties to any Scientologist or the Church of Scientology. A Scientologist celebrant did conduct our wedding ceremony, but we declined his offer to do a Scientologist ceremony. My family seems to be a magnet for unusual people. It's an interesting life. Neither myself nor my husband nor anyone in our families have ever been Scientologists.

I am in fact an atheist. I hope that won't alienate too many of my readers. I respect other people's right to believe, to believe in ridiculous, mean-spirited, sexist and ethno-centric nonsense, but I might not have a lot of respect for your actual beliefs.

Lili Marlene is not my real name. I am a mother and housewife living in Australia. I know that I'm a synaesthete and there are many indications that I'm on the autistic spectrum, but I do not consider myself disabled. I have always been a loner, but there are a select few people whose company I enjoy.

I have no financial interest in anything related to the autistic spectrum or synaesthesia or psychiatry. I have no sponsors nor any work or study-related conflicts of interest regarding the subject matter of this blog. For many years I have used the Blogger service for free to make and publish this blog, so that could be seen as a sponsorship. I am not flogging a new book or quack remedies. Why the hell am I doing this?

Does this interesting case have similarities with Jani?

I've been watching a fascinating documentary "Can't Sleep Kid" about a child sleep disorder clinic in the UK, the Evelina Childrens' Hospital Pediatric Sleep Disorder Unit, and the fascinating case of a little girl named Jessica reminded me a lot of Jani Schofield.'t%20Sleep%20Kid

An unexhaustive list of medical journal papers in which Prof. Patrick D McGorry was an author and failed to or did not disclose competing interests

you may need to click on "Author" info boxes in these online journal papers to get to the sections for conflict of interest or competing interest declarations (or non-declarations)

Alexandra G Parker, Sarah E Hetrick, Anthony F Jorm, Alison R Yung, Patrick D McGorry, Andrew Mackinnon, Bridget Moller, and Rosemary Purcell (2011) The effectiveness of simple psychological and exercise interventions for high prevalence mental health problems in young people: a factorial randomised controlled trial. Trials. 2011; 12: 76. Published online 2011 March 13.

Amresh Shrivastava, P. D. McGorry, Ming Tsuang, Scott W. Woods, Barbara A. Cornblatt, Cheryl Corcoran and William Carpenter (2011) “Attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome” as a risk syndrome of psychosis, diagnosis in DSM-V: The debate. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2011 Jan-Mar; 53(1): 57–65. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.75560.

Takahashi T, Wood SJ, Yung AR, Walterfang M, Phillips LJ, Soulsby B, Kawasaki Y, McGorry PD, Suzuki M, Velakoulis D, Pantelis C. (2010) Superior temporal gyrus volume in antipsychotic-naive people at risk of psychosis. British Journal of Psychiatry. March 2010 196: 206-211. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.109.069732

Jo Robinson, Sarah Hetrick, Sara Gook, Elizabeth Cosgrave, Hok Pan Yuen, Patrick McGorry and Alison Yung (2009) Study protocol: the development of a randomised controlled trial testing a postcard intervention designed to reduce suicide risk among young help-seekers. BMC Psychiatry. 2009; 9: 59. Published online 2009 September 23. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-9-59.

Jo Robinson, Sara Gook, Hok Pan Yuen, Patrick D McGorry and Alison R Yung (2008) Managing deliberate self-harm in young people: An evaluation of a training program developed for school welfare staff using a longitudinal research design. BMC Psychiatry. 2008; 8: 75. Published online 2008 September 15. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-8-75.

Patrick D McGorry, Eóin Killackey and Alison R Yung (2007) Early intervention in psychotic disorders: detection and treatment of the first episode and the critical early stages. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S8-S10.

Michael Berk, Karen Hallam, Nellie Lucas, Melissa Hasty, Craig A McNeil, Philippe Conus, Linda Kader and Patrick D McGorry (2007) Early intervention in bipolar disorders: opportunities and pitfalls. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S11-S14.

Andrew M Chanen, Louise K McCutcheon, Martina Jovev, Henry J Jackson and Patrick D McGorry (2007) Prevention and early intervention for borderline personality disorder. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S18-S21.

Patrick D McGorry, Rosemary Purcell, Ian B Hickie, Alison R Yung, Christos Pantelis and Henry J Jackson (2007) Clinical staging: a heuristic model for psychiatry and youth mental health. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S40-S42.

Alison R Yung, Patrick D McGorry, Shona M Francey, Barnaby Nelson, Kathryn Baker, Lisa J Phillips, Gregor Berger and G Paul Amminger (2007) PACE: a specialised service for young people at risk of psychotic disorders. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S43-S46.

Patrick D McGorry (2007) The specialist youth mental health model: strengthening the weakest link in the public mental health system. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S53-S56.

Patrick D McGorry, Chris Tanti, Ryan Stokes, Ian B Hickie, Kate Carnell, Lyndel K Littlefield and John Moran (2007) Headspace: Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation — where young minds come first. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S68-S70.

Annemarie Wright, Patrick D McGorry, Meredith G Harris, Anthony F Jorm and Kerryn Pennell (2006) Development and evaluation of a youth mental health community awareness campaign – The Compass Strategy. BMC Public Health. 2006; 6: 215.
Published online 2006 August 22. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-6-215.

And some journal papers in which Prof. McGorry DID disclose conflicting interests

Patrick D McGorry, Sherilyn Goldstone (2011) Is this normal? Assessing mental health in young people. Australian Family Physician. Vol 40, (3) 94-97.
[see the download for COI info]

McGorry, Patrick (2008) Is early intervention in the major psychiatric disorders justified? Yes. British Medical Journal. August 4th 2008. 337:a695.
[need to register to access full text]

Patrick D McGorry (2005) Evidence based reform of mental health care
Early, intensive, and home based treatments are the answer. British Medical Journal. 2005 September 17; 331(7517): 586–587.
doi: 10.1136/bmj.331.7517.586.

Further Reading

Webb, David and Raven, Melissa (2010) McGorry's 'early intervention' in mental health: a prescription for disaster. On Line Opinion. April 6th 2010.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Teenage Lobotomy by the Ramones

To celebrate the beginning of a new era of interventionist psychiatry for Australia's troubled youth, I thought some rock and roll from the punk genre would be in order. Who wrote these lyrics?

Flacco explains

Way back in 2007 Flacco explained those strange drug brand names and the often inexplicable behaviour of quacks, on The Science Show:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A list of drug companies from which Prof. Patrick McGorry has received a research grant

(note from August 2012 - some time after the publication of this post the journal paper which is the source of the info has been placed behind a paywall.)

Janssen- Cilag - producer of the drugs:

Concerta which is prescribed for ADHD

Haldol which is prescribed for Schizophrenia

Invega Sustenna which is prescribed for Schizophrenia

Invega which is prescribed for Schizophrenia

Risperdal Costa which is prescribed for Schizophrenia

Risperdal & Quicklet which is prescribed for Schizophrenia

Eli Lilly - producer of the drugs:

Cymbalta which is prescribed for Depression and Anxiety

Prozac which is prescribed for Depression, OCD and "premenstrual dysphoric disorder"

Strattera which is prescribed for ADHD

Zyprexa which is prescribed for Schizophrenia and Bipolar

Zyprexa Relprevv which is prescribed for Schizophrenia

Zyprexa IM which is prescribed for Schizophrenia and Bipolar

Bristol-Myers Squibb - producer of the drug:

Abilify which is prescribed for Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Depression and bothersome behaviour in autistic people

AstraZeneca - producer of the drugs:

Seroquel which is prescribed for Schizophrenia, Bipolar and Depression

Seroquel XR which is prescribed for Schizophrenia and Bipolar

Pfizer - producer of the drugs:

Geodon which is prescribed for Schizophrenia and Bipolar

Zoloft which is prescribed for Depression

Novartis - producer of the drugs:

Ritalin which is prescribed for ADHD

Ritalin LA which is prescribed for ADHD

Tofranil which is prescribed for Depression

"He has acted as a paid consultant for, and has received speaker’s fees and travel reimbursement from, all or most of these companies."


McGorry, Patrick (2008) Is early intervention in the major psychiatric disorders justified? Yes. British Medical Journal. August 4th 2008. 337:a695.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sane Aussie youths sure to get caught up in McGorry’s net(work) – more early-interference madness to be foist upon Australian families

(this post added to a number of times after 1st publication)

In the recent federal budget the former Australian of the Year Prof. Patrick McGorry has been promised funding by the Gillard Government for his Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres (EPPIC), after unsuccessfully soliciting for funding from the Rudd Government. McGorry has at one time or another received research grant support from a number of different drug companies (McGorry 2008), so he has conflicting interests. Large numbers of Australians who have uncritically accepted the promotion by McGorry and colleagues of the idea of early intervention for teens thought to be at risk of developing psychosis will no doubt be happy with the Gillard Government’s different attitude towards McGorry’s vision. The Australian public have already been sold the idea of early intervention into the lives of our youngest children, so it appears that Australia is fertile ground for McGorry’s proactive plans for adolescent and teen Australians.

Early intervention into the lives of the young is a concept that has already worked its way through Australian society, like a dose of the salts. The idea that proactive, expert-led parenting and early intervention from various types of allied health professionals can prevent young children from developing into autistics or people who will have problems or be a problem for society has won huge popularity with the Australian public at large, despite a lack of an evidence-base for many of these claims. In the US organizations such as Zero to Three have aggressively promoted to parents the idea that early intervention is very effective and often crucial for a young child’s healthy development, and that the quality of parenting can have a major influence on the development of the brains of babies and toddlers, citing neuroscience in questionable ways. In Australia organizations such as NGALA have been promoting a similar story to parents, frightening vulnerable new mothers with photographs of brightly-coloured scans of stunted brains of neglected infants from Romanian orphanages. The negative side of the early intervention story is the implication that bad or neglectful parenting is to blame when children develop in ways that are not considered desirable by society, even though there is overwhelming evidence that many developmental differences and disabilities are inborn, medical or genetic in origin. This is a modern echo of the discredited, unscientific, damaging and unfair refrigerator-mother theory about the origins of autism and schizophrenia that was espoused by the imposter psychotherapist Bruno Bettelheim, which was popular in the in the 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s. Ideas championed by the modern-day early intervention movement have been criticised in books such as The Myth of the First Three Years by John Bruer and books by psychologist Judith Rich Harris.

The very popular but also very questionable early intervention story has been adopted by Australian psychiatry and this profession will soon claim many more Australian teenagers as potential clients, but not everyone is happy to give psychiatrists a greater role in the care of our young adults. Martin Whitely, a WA Labor MP and a long-time campaigner against the use of ADHD drugs has aired his concerns about Prof. McGorry’s plans in a recent ABC News story:
"Professor McGorry is a leading international proponent of a new psychiatric disorder that's for inclusion in the next edition of the DSM-5, the bible of psychiatry if you like," Labor MP Martin Whitley said. "It's a disorder called Psychosis Risk Syndrome and it hypothesises that you can spot adolescents and teenagers who are likely to become psychotic. And even Professor McGorry acknowledges that most of those diagnosed will in fact be false positives, so most of those will never go on to develop psychosis.”

The false identification of young non-psychotic people as psychotic should be considered a very serious matter, considering the social stigma that will always be associated with a mental illness diagnosis which can follow an individual for the rest of their life, the vulnerability of adolescents at a time of life when they need to be establishing a place for themselves in society, and the many serious side-effects of anti-psychotic drugs, which include substantial weight gain (with associated health risks), lassitude, fatigue, drowsiness, breast swelling (in both sexes) and permanent disfiguring facial tics. I’m sure there aren’t too many teenage boys who would be willing accept the development of breasts or crazy-looking facial tics as a side effect of a drug given in the hope that it might prevent the development of a mental illness.

Martin Whitely is not the only authority to express concern about the recent movement advocating the early or pre-emptive identification of psychosis in young people. In a 2010 article published at Psychology Today, Dr Allen Frances, chair of the DSM-IV Task Force and professor emeritus at the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, identified the proposed new diagnostic category of “Psychosis Risk Syndrome” which has apparently been championed by Prof. McGorry, as “the most ill conceived and potentially harmful” of all of the problematic suggestions for DSM5, which is the upcoming revision of the diagnostic manual of American (and by default international) psychiatry. Dr Allen Francis foresees the incorrect identification of a number of different types of young people as potentially psychotic once they are bought in for assessment by family members: drug users, rebellious adolescents with developmental issues, adolescents displaying culturally dystonic creativity, stable schizotypal personalities and the normally eccentric. To Dr Francis’ list I would add synaesthete youths, based on what I know about two case histories of girls who have been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

I have written a number of widely-read articles about Jani (January) Schofield, a young intellectually gifted Californian girl who has been given the diagnosis of "child-onset schizophrenia" by a psychiatrist at UCLA, but has not responded to treatment with reportedly heavy doses of anti-psychotic drugs. Jani has been institutionalized at least seven times in psychiatric hospitals, but to my knowledge has never attended a normal school classroom for any length of time. She has been at the centre of a media circus, appearing on the top-rating American Oprah TV show in 2009 and has been featured in numerous press and commercial TV stories. I have listed many features of Jani’s case that are suggestive of synaesthesia and autism, and I have argued against her diagnosis of schizophrenia. I have expressed my dismay that so little has been written or spoken about Jani’s reported IQ of 146. As the parent of children who have independently been identified as intellectually gifted, I know that giftedness is a characteristic that has important implications for parenting and education and the general well-being of the child. Specialist educators acknowledge that gifted children whose educational needs are not met can develop behavioural or mental health issues. I fear that Prof. McGorry’s push to identify psychosis and risk of psychosis in younger Australian patients could result in us seeing cases like the Jani Schofield scandal in Australia. As a synaesthete who understands the harmlessness, the usefulness and the strangeness of synaesthesia, the thought of fellow-synaesthetes being misidentified as psychotic bothers me a lot. Is there any evidence that my fears are justified, beyond the Schofield case?

I have read a few personal accounts by synaesthetes reporting their misdiagnosis as schizophrenic, and the famous neuroscientist and author V. S. Ramachandran has written about one such case in his 2011 book The Tell-tale Brain. On page 78 of the William Heinemann paperback edition can be found Ramachandran's account of the misdiagnosis of synasesthesia experienced by a female patient as hallucinations of schizophrenia. The female synaesthete was apparently prescribed antipsychotic medication until her parents did some research, found out about synaesthesia and shared this information with their daughter's doctor. Apparently the synaesthete was promptly taken off the drugs when it became clear that someone had made a terrible clinical error. One could assume that this case happened in the US, as Prof. Ramachandran works in a Californian university.

A quick look at a factsheet about “at risk mental state and young people” available from the website of Orygen Youth Health does nothing to reassure me that Prof. McGorry’s youth mental health network have a clear understanding of the difference between people on the cusp of insanity and the merely odd, dim or unusual. The information given seems illogical, self-contradictory and vague. There is a reference to “young people who appear to be at ultra high risk of developing a mental illness”. There seems to be hardly any point in estimating an “ultra high” degree of risk if there is lack of certainty about the risk. The factsheet explains that “symptoms for the prodrome of psychosis are common in adolescence” but I know that genuine psychosis is a rare event, so it follows that there must be no “ultra high risk” associated with prodrome. So where is the justification for using the phrase “ultra high risk” anywhere in this factsheet? Three different groups of people are identified in the factsheet who are claimed to be at increased risk of developing a psychotic illness. It is the varied and vague traits of group 2, those displaying “subthreshold psychotic symptoms”, that I’m most concerned about. According to Orygen, “brief “bursts” of ... seeing visions” is a subthreshold psychotic symptom, but this could also plausibly be a description of any number of different visual types of synaesthesia. “Misinterpreting events/comments” are also cited as subthreshold psychotic symptoms, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to claim that these behaviours could also be symptoms of simple stupidity.

My own in-person encounter with a representative of Prof. McGorry's youth mental health network at a youth-oriented event has done nothing to reassure me that this service is able to distinguish between the symptoms of psychosis and non-psychotic experiences. I described a common type of synaesthesia experience. The representative of this service advised that a proper professional assessment would be required to judge whether such an experience was a mental health concern. This person showed no idication that they knew what synaesthesia is. Even if the person who I spoke to was not a fully qualified mental health professional, surely anyone in the frontline of a walk-in service specializing in the diagnosis of psychosis should at least know of the existence of a harmless and common neurological condition that can easily be misidentified as psychosis by those who lack knowledge.

The feature of the Orygen Youth Health online factsheet about "at risk mental state and young people" that I found the most odd is a lack of mention of illicit drug use as a cause of psychosis in youth or as an issue complicating the clinical picture. This seems a most curious omission, but I think there could be a reason why this matter has been avoided. It seems inevitable that any youth mental health service will have to deal with drug and alcohol users and addiction issues, but it appears that McGorry’s service does not offer expertise or services in these areas. One wonders what they will do with youth who enter their service and who have substance use issues. Will these issues be ignored, or will the patients be given the run-around and referred on to other services? I see nothing in the information available about McGorry’s services to refute or address the reasonable argument that youth mental health issues are generally really substance use issues, and should be treated as such.

Professor Patrick McGorry has a high profile in Australia as a former Australian of the Year and is highly regarded by many, but the idea of early identification of psychosis is not the only aspect of McGorry’s clinical practice that has been subject to questioning from within Australia. In January 2010 Prof. McGorry was asked in an ABC interview about the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, a diagnosis that is given a questionable emphasis in McGorry’s mental health services, to the exclusion of other personality disorders. McGorry acknowledged that there has been controversy associated with the diagnosis. The interviewer later mentioned that there are similarities between the symptoms of borderline PD and the normal turbulence of adolescence.

In the face of often-cited evidence that schizophrenics in third-world countries who do not get access to modern anti-psychotic drugs have a better recovery rate than treated schizophrenics in developed nations, Professor McGorry’s ambition to treat more young Australians in his early psychosis centres, including some who do not display full symptoms of psychosis, should be questioned and opposed, and at the very least subjected to the closest scrutiny and genuinely independent professional review.

P. S. You were right, Mr Rudd!

References and recommended reading

Ahmed, Tanveer (2010) Mental health claims overblown. Sydney Morning Herald. August 12, 2010.

APANA Autistic People Against Neuroleptic Abuse

Attard, Monica (2010) Professor Patrick McGorry, 2010 Australian of the Year. Sunday Profile. ABC Radio National. January 31st 2010.

Bruer, John (1999) The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning. Free Press, 1999.

Harris, Judith Rich (2009) The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. Revised and updated edition. Free Press, 2009.

Lili Marlene (accessed 2011) Jani Schofield - I’m sorry that I’ll have to add this sad and shameful tale to my list of famous synesthetes. Incorrect Pleasures. April 2010, edited 2011.

McGorry, Patrick (2008) Is early intervention in the major psychiatric disorders justified? Yes. British Medical Journal. August 4th 2008. 337:a695.

Orygen Youth Health (2008) At risk mental state and young people. Orygen Youth Health. July 2008.

Ramachandran, V. S. (2011) The tell-tale brain: unlocking the mystery of human nature. William Heinemann, 2011.

Speed Up & Sit Still (blog of Martin Whitely MLA)

Webb, David and Raven, Melissa (2010) McGorry's 'early intervention' in mental health: a prescription for disaster. On Line Opinion. April 6th 2010.

Weber, David (2011) Mental health centres under attack. ABC News. May 12, 2011.

Weber, Patrick (2011) Professor McGorry hits back at critics. The World Today. ABC Radio National. May 20 2011.

Whitaker, Robert (2010) Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. Crown, 2010.

An interesting writer's signature

The late New Zealander author Janet Frame used to sometimes sign her name "Janet on the Planet". How fascinating. Many thanks to the literary executor of Frame's estate, her niece Pamela Gordon, for sharing this interesting bit of information and photo with the world.

Gordon, Pamela
Name Change
An Angel @ My Blog
December 19, 2008.

A piece of advice from a rather gorgeous Bollywood actor

Don't walk as if you rule the world, but walk as if you don't care who rules the world.
- Shah Rukh Khan

Lili's thought for the day

I'd love to know what Julian Assange thinks of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Added more info to Jani Schofield post

I have added more information to one of my articles about Jani Schofield, a young intellectually gifted Californian girl who has been given the diagnosis of "child-onset schizophrenia", and who has been the focus of a media circus and much publicity created by her parents. I have argued that Jani is an autistic synaesthete rather than a schizophrenic. I have recently discovered that the neuroscientist and popular author V. S. Ramachandran has described a case of synaesthesia misdiagnosed as schizophrenia in a (possibly young) female patient in his most recent pop psychology book The Tell-tale Brain: unlocking the mystery of human nature. So, such terrible mistakes really do happen in the United States. They shouldn't.

Jani Schofield - I’m sorry that I’ll have to add this sad and shameful tale to my list of famous synesthetes

Improper use of physical restraint on autistic students in Australia

There was a story on the current affairs TV show 7.30 tonight about the improper use of physical restraint on autistic students in some Australian schools. The story is available to view on the website of the program. It's shocking. These practices are against guidelines and could potentially result in a death. This problem is particularly acute in autistic children who cannot speak, when the school does not notify parents about what has happened to the autistic student during their school day. No parent should ever have to find out about this stuff by finding bruises and cuts on their child. Some parents are considering charges of assault, and a number of Australian professionial associations are concerned about the current situation.

"Hidden Shame"
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcast: 17/05/2011
Reporter: Mary Gearin

Monday, May 16, 2011

Still simmering

One thing that I like about blogging is that one never knows what to expect in the comments that come into my blog. I tend not to get prolonged discussions at my blog, which is possibly a blessing in disguise as such stuff can be time-consuming. Occassionally I am delighted to receive comments from authors of books or works that I've mentioned in my blog, but I was rather surprised that an article that I published back in 2007 has recently been commented on.

It appears that a feud over whether or not a deceased famous person was or was not on the autistic spectrum is still simmering four years after a medical journal paper was published that raised the matter. The famous person is the late Janet Frame ONZ CBE, an acclaimed author from New Zealand whose life story was depicted in the movie An Angel at My Table. Janet Frame was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia when she was young and endured years of institutionalization and electroconvulsive treatment before her diagnosis was overturned. She came close to being lobotomized. Frame died during the year 2004. The literary estate of Frame's is administered by her niece Pamela Gordon, and in recent years has released a novel and poems posthumously. Pamela Gordon was not pleased when in 2007 Dr Sarah Abrahamson's paper proposing that Frame had high-functioning autism was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. It appears that relations haven't been very cordial between Abrahamson and Gordon since then.

Abrahamson has been writing a blog for a number of years about fictional characters who display autistic features, including characters in work by Janet Frame. If you have enjoyed reading my piece about autistic fictional characters you could well enjoy reading Dr Abrahamson's blog. One thing that appears to be absent from Dr Abrahamson's writing is an acknowledgement and explanation for what appears to be an advanced level of social and personal insight displayed in the writing of Janet Frame, considering that autism is generally accepted as a condition that is inconsistent with having even average levels of insight into the personal and social areas of life, while it is also true that Frame did appear to have many features typical of autistic biographies in her life story. Is there something wrong with the idea of Frame being on the spectrum, or is there something wrong with the dry textbook definitions of autism that Dr Abrahamson appears to have based her writing on? How could there even exist an autistic novelist, considering that novels are generally about the inner lives of human characters and include at least some description of social situations? Janet Frame, James Joyce, Greg Egan, George Orwell, Sherwood Anderson, Helen Demidenko, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Melville, Patricia Highsmith and Herman Hesse are all novel or story writers who have been identified as possible cases of autism/Asperger syndrome. What gives?

Pamela Gordon also has a blog, one that represents the literary estate of Janet Frame, which give details of publications of Frame's work. In this blog Gordon has some articles arguing against the idea of Frame being on the spectrum, not very convincingly in my opinion. It's interesting that this matter is still simmering all these years later. I guess it's also interesting that I'm still here writing about it all.

An Angel @ My Blog

Aspies on TV

Was the brilliant NZ author Janet Frame autistic?

Did Janet Frame have high-functioning autism?
Sarah Abrahamson
Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association. 12-October-2007, Vol 120 No 1263

A referenced list of 175 famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An amusing quote from a feminist

"True equality is when we have just as many female f***wits in top positions as male f***wits in top positions."

- Australian intellectual and feminist Eva Cox quoting some unnamed person, broadcast on Big Ideas, ABCTV

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lili's next thought for the day

The little girl asked me to make her a flower out of the long, pink balloon. The poor little pet got something that looks like haemorrhoids.

Lili's thought for the day

Anyone who thinks Australia is currently in the midst of an economic boom must be living in another country, or another dimension of reality.

Lili takes the test

OH NO! It appears that I have "Some signs of NTS, possibly affected" What is NTS? I think it might be NeuroTypical Syndrome. Me neurotypical? You think? Gosh, I hope not!

Standardised NTS diagnostics test in compliance with RCD-10

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lili's thought for the day

I am an atheist, and when I wish to visit a sacred site and experience a vision of a better world I visit a childrens' playground.

Monday, May 09, 2011

A quick word or two regarding the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test and the Austrian study

I plan to write more about this later, but one thing that I can do now after reading the full text of the Austrian study that was published in 2006 that involved the RMET is that the mean score in the RMET for 206 normal male controls was 22.35 and the mean score for 217 normal female controls was 23.31 in that test, both being rather lower scores for normal controls than have been found in many other studies of the RMET. I believe this is because this study is superior, as I will explain later.

So, the figures quoted by Cordelia Fine in her interesting book Delusions of Gender were true, and the claim by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen in his 2003 book The Essential Difference that a score of 30 in this test is a typical average score looks most questionable in light of the 2006 Austrian study. This discrepancy is especially important when one considers that scores by autistics on this test of around 20 to 22 have been cited as evidence of a deficit in reading emotions or "empathizing" in autistic people. No score on any test can be judged to be superior or normal or subnormal without first having an understanding of what a normal score is, based on solid scientific research studies. So do autistic people really have a deficit in reading human emotions in facial expressions in the eyes in photographs of eyes?

Martin Voracek and Stefan G. Dressler (2006) Lack of correlation between digit ratio (2D:4D) and Baron-Cohen’s “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test, empathy, systemising, and autism-spectrum quotients in a general population sample. Personality and Individual Differences. Volume 41, Issue 8, December 2006. P. 1481-1491.

Lili's thought for the day

The term "two-speed economy" is a nice euphemism for increasing economic inequality.

Lili's thought for the day

Does the world really need three different movies about the life of Julian Assange (HBO, Dreamworks and Universal)? Since when is some pale Aussie geek who has spent a life hunched over a computer keyboard this interesting?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Aussie TV series featuring the story of an autistic cop whistleblower won Silver Logie

Congratulations to all involved in the 2010 season of the very popular Australian crime TV series Underbelly, titled Underbelly: The Golden Mile. Last week this Nine Network series won a Silver Logie for the Most Outstanding Drama Series, Miniseries or Telemovie at the 53rd Logie Awards that was held in Melbourne on May 1, 2011.

One important source of factual information upon which this series was based is the book Watching the Detectives by Deborah Locke which was published by ABC Books in 2003. Deborah Locke (nee Debbie Webb) was a whistleblower cop who exposed some serious police corruption in the 1990s in New South Wales, and this led to a Royal Commission. In the Underbelly series her character was played by Cheree Cassidy. Locke is also an autistic woman and the mother of an autistic child. Her story is an amazing one, which can be read in her own book, her website and the stuff below that I have written about her, and can be viewed in part in the TV series.

P. S. Firass Dirani won two Logies, and what a spunk!

The cast of Underbelly with their Silver Logie
Tracey Nearmy, AAP
Monday, May 2, 2011

Watching Deborah Locke watching the detectives
Lili Marlene
Incorrect Pleasures
May 6th 2010

A referenced list of 175 famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum

Underbelly: The Golden Mile

Gould doco repeated tonight

Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould is a documentary about the famous Canadian pianist who is thought by many people to have had Asperger syndrome. This documentary probably gives the best insight into Gould's private life of any doco or biography. Gould was a beautiful and intelligent man, and for me this doco is worth watching just to see a more inspiring sight than the standard rot that is served up as prime-time TV viewing. This documentary is being repeated tonight at 8.00pm on ABC2 in Australian free-to-air television.

Reading the mind in the eyes test - I have full text of the Austrian study

For some strange reason this blog post is the one that comes up highest in Google searches on the term "Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test". I'd like to redirect you to the two other posts that I have published to date in which I discuss this test:

Mathematician's test score does not add up

A quick word or two regarding the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test and the Austrian study

I have read the full text of the Austrian study involving the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test which I discussed in my posting about the famous mathematician's test scores. I hope to find the time to write about it soon.

Every diagnosis of autism should be accompanied with screening for genetic syndromes

Many cases in which kids are diagnosed with autism appear to actually be the result of identifiable genetic syndromes. Whether or not such cases should be regarded as autism or autism-like conditions is an open question. Below is a link to a recent news story about a family in which one twin son has a diagnosis of autism, and the other twin son a diagnosis of Leigh's disease, a mitochondrial disease that is apparently inherited due to a mutation in mitochondria inherited from the mother. Mitochondria are the power-sources of the body's cells, and when they are impaired motor functioning and the central nervous system are inevitably impaired.

This is not the first time that autism has been associated with a mitochondrial disease. In 2008 the federal government agreed to award damages to the family of Hannah Poling, a girl who developed autistic-like symptoms after receiving a series of vaccines. Months later she was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease, which presumably would have been an inborn, not acquired disorder. Some anti-vaccine parents of autistic children view this ruling as confirming that vaccines cause regressive autism, but most children with autism do not seem to have mitochondrial disorders, and the case was conceded without proof of causation. The questions that scientists and parents need to be asking are - is regressive autism different to non-regressive autism in etiology and or presentation, is regressive autism caused by mitochondrial disease, and can anything be done to prevent, cure, manage or treat mitochondrial disease?

Please donate toward charities that fund research into rare diseases, if you can afford it. Such diseases are often very neglected by research and very serious in their effects.

Leigh's disease a challenge for new mums
Natasha Boddy
The West Australian
April 30, 2011

Friday, May 06, 2011

Synaesthetes and trouble - there seems to be a connection

I had not been familiar with the American painter Joan Mitchell till recently, but apparently she was quite a colourful character - in all senses of the word. Mitchell had some of the more common colour-related types of synaesthesia, she used colour in a striking way in her work and she had a colourful life, with much hard-drinking, arguing and defiance of gender stereotypes. "She was a piece of work!" according to the art critic Irving Sandler, and it has been claimed that conflict was Mitchell's favourite form of entertainment. Patricia Albers has written a biography of the prickly painter titled "Joan Mitchell, Lady Painter: A Life" which will, no doubt, be a most interesting read.

If I ever manage to find the time and iron out my current technical issues with blogging I expect I will add Mitchell to my list of famous synaesthetes. One thing that I've noticed with the people in this list or who will be added to this list is that a number of them have created controversy or controversial works. Lady Gaga has recently spoken about her coloured-song synaesthesia and her sense of alienation as a teen. Her outlandish theatrical stunts during her concerts and bizarre and scanty outfits appear to be designed to shock and awe. Another coloured-music synaesthete, Syd Barrett, wrote Pink Floyd's first hit single, Arnold Layne, which was once banned from airplay by Radio London. The song is about a transvestite who stole women's clothes and undergarments from washing lines, possibly an autobiographical theme.

On a more intellectual plane, a number of creative synaesthete novelists have created banned or controversial works. Writer Vladimir Nabokov was a synaesthete who married a synaesthete and had a synaesthete son. He wrote about his synaesthesia and also created a number of synaesthete characters in his novels, which unfortunately mostly aren't stocked in the public library system in the state where I live. Nabokov's most famous novel Lolita was told from the point of view of a paedophile, inevitably making it controversial. The novel was banned in France for two years in the 1950s.

In 2009 the English author Julie Myerson found herself at the centre of a controversy about the ethics of writing about one's own children following the publication of the partly-autobiographical novel The Lost Child. Among the many other books by Myerson is one in which she described her dislike of sport as a high school student.

The Australian novelist Eleanor Dark was probably best known for her historical novels, but an early novella of hers published in 1934, Prelude to Christopher, won an ALS Gold Medal and was one of the first Australian novels to have a modernist style. This novel tackled touchy subjects such as eugenics, sexual morality and pacifism. In 2008 a relative of Dark's, Helen O'Reilly, who did a thesis on Dark's novels argued in a literary magazine that Dark was a synaesthete. In her University of New South Wales thesis she compared Dark with Nabokov.

So, it appears that there is possibly a connection between being a synaesthete and creating controversy. Synaesthesia is thought to be a neurological condition that promotes creativity, so perhaps this should not be surprising. So if you think I'm trouble or you don't like some of the things that I write, please bear in mind - my synaesthesia made me do it!

A Fiercely Gifted Artist.
Karen Wilkin
Wall Street Journal
May 7th 2011

Painter Joan Mitchell Finally Gets Her Due.
ANN LEVIN For The Associated Press
May 2, 2011

Albers, Patricia (2011) Joan Mitchell, Lady Painter: A Life. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

56 famous synaesthetes or possible synesthetes: a list with references

Love Google, but technical problems still to be resolved

I've been a fan of Google since before it was even Google. I remember the time when the top internet search engines were names like Fast, Hot Bot, Northern Light, Alta Vista and Yahoo. There were also lots of cumbersome meta-search engines. These were much loved by librarians who knew about the limitations of any one search engine. The range and absolute numbers of coverage of the internet of the major search engines were the subjects of much interest and speculation. Then along came a new idea in search engines - a search engine that had some special algorithm that enabled it to boost the rankings of web pages according to how popular those web pages were. It was called Google beta, and it looked like it was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. The rest is history.

I've been writing in this blog for many years with Blogger, which is I believe owned by Google. It hasn't cost me one red cent in all this time, but my work has had many thousands of reads in this time. I'm most grateful to Google for this long-term, reliable and free service, not only to me but also to my readers. Unfortunately, I still have a few issues with my blog posting since a recent computer upgrade, and my technical consultant guy is too busy at present sorting out more immediately urgent technical issues in the world beyond the internet to have had time to look into this problem, so I hope my readers don't mind too much the continuing complete lack of visual appeal of my blog.

Lili's thought for the day

Interesting people don't get security clearances.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Mathematician's test score does not add up

(postscript added July-Aug 2011, small edit made Feb 2012)

A quote from pages 162-163 of the Penguin paperback edition of the 2003 pop psychology book The Essential Difference by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen:

"Sally and I decided it would be good to try to get some quantitative measures of his social understanding and degree of autistic traits, so we asked him to take the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test. Richard scored 25 out of 36. People typically score on average 30 out of 36, so Richard's score was significantly lower than one would have expected."

"Richard" in this quote is the Fields Medal-winning mathematician Richard Borcherds, whose diagnostic consultation with Professor Baron-Cohen to see if he had Asperger syndrome was written about in detail in the book. In the book it is not clear whether or not a clinical diagnosis was made; Baron-Cohen referring to Borcherds as "an example of someone whose AS has not been an obstacle to achievement in his adult life...", but later stating that "he is not currently severe enough in his symptoms to warrant a diagnosis in adulthood...." The Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test is a test that was developed by the Autism Research Centre of the University of Cambridge, which has Baron-Cohen as a Director.

Here is a quote from page 18 of the Icon Books paperback edition of the 2010 feminist pop psychology book Delusions of Gender by Dr Cordelia Fine:

"In the Austrian study, women scored higher than men on the Reading the Mind from the Eyes test. However, the difference was small: women, on average, correctly guessed 23 of the 36 items; men, 22."

Dr Fine was not referring to sick or abnormal men and women here, she was discussing men and women in general, and the study that she cited as the source of these figures was a large study (n=423) of "the general population" of Austria, that was published in 2006. So, the findings of the Austrian study, as reported by Fine, appear to show that a normal score on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) is much lower than that claimed by Prof. Baron-Cohen back in 2003. The study was a large one, so the findings should be fairly reliable.

Things don't add up when we compare the quotes from the two different books. Baron-Cohen was most certainly wrong when he wrote that a typical, normal score on that test is 30. So far I have had a close look at eight different studies that have involved giving a normal control group the same 36-question version of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), and in all of those studies the normal control group's mean score was under 30. Baron-Cohen even contradicted his own research findings when he claimed in the book published in 2003 that 30 was a normal score on the 36-question RMET. A study co-authored by Prof. Baron-Cohen that was published in 2001 in an autism journal indicated that a normal score on the RMET for “general population controls” is around 26 out of 36. I have not yet been able to get a hold of the full-text of the Austrian study, but if Fine's account of the scores is correct a normal score on the RMET is nowhere near 30.

Should it be this difficult to find out what a normal score on a test is? Of course it shouldn't! A person should be able to trust a professor when he says that you have scored below normal on a test. With a score of 25 out of 36 in the RMET, and a normal score in the RMET being well under 30 and possibly as low as 22 out of 36 for men, it looks like Richard Borcherd's ability to read facial expressions in the eyes is completely normal, maybe even good, and possibly even better than the average woman's score. But Borcherds is supposed to be autistic, and autistic people are emotion-blind, aren't we? And women have super powers of emotion-reading by virtue of our hormones, don't we? [Why do I feel so confused?] So any woman should be far superior to some autistic male mathematician in a test of identifying facial expressions, surely? Well, maybe not.

Why does this matter? It matters because the idea that autistic people cannot read emotions is an article of faith and also an industry in the world of academic autism research and autism charities. The Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test has been cited as a test of empathizing, by virtue of it being regarded as a test of reading facial expressions, and this test has been used very widely in researching possible social deficits in people who have a variety of different medical or psychiatric conditions unrelated to autism. The popularity of this test (which presumably researchers have to pay a licensing fee to the ARC to use) I guess might be the result of the belief that it has been a useful and valid instrument in identifying autistic deficits. The idea that an inability to read emotions is a core deficit of autism has been widely believed and widely sold. Teaching autistic kids how to read facial expressions has been marketed as a therapy for autism, and I’m sure many parents of kids who have been given an autism diagnosis have bought products that are promoted as useful in this area believing that they are making an important investment in their child’s future wellbeing. Baron-Cohen’s Autism Research Centre has been marketing a DVD aimed at parents of autistic kids: “This BAFTA nominated children's animation features vehicles with emotions and has been shown to help children with autism improve in emotion recognition.” As Baron-Cohen has explained himself in an interview, the development of this DVD was funded by British taxpayers to the tune of half a million pounds, but the licence is now owned by the ARC. Free copies of this DVD have been distributed to UK families with autistic kids, but it is also for sale, and some of the profits are given to the autism charity Autism Speaks, which is much despised by many autistic adults and family members of autistic people. The ARC has also been marketing for a number of years a very expensive CD-ROM that features actors acting out (acted, fake, fake-looking) emotions which is supposed to be educational for autistic people. The author of this work is listed as Simon Baron-Cohen. Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen has also written a book titled Teaching Children with Autism to Mind-read which covers facial expressions.

The idea of an autistic deficit in reading facial expressions is the basis of an industry that turns over a lot of money, and when this amount of cash is sloshing around, the numbers should add up. But they don’t add up, and I’m not done with investigating this matter. So I’ll soon be jumping onto my broom and flying on down to my favourite university library to check out the full text of the Austrian study of the RMET first-hand, and I’ll let you know what I find.

P.S. July-August 2011

I've completed my meta-analysis of studies that have used the 36 item RMET on a normal control group or a normal placebo group. I have not yet found the time to write a lengthy discussion of interesting stuff that I've found, but you can see the figures that I've calculated from my findings at the article below. Yes, there is something strange about the German version of the RMET, but it is also true that a normal score on the RMET is lower than 30.

I have found that a normal score on the 36 item Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, as created and revised by Baron-Cohen's team, is 26.03061. This would make the score in this test of the mathematician Richard Borcherds of 25 out of 36 COMPLETELY NORMAL. Does this mean that he can't really be autistic? No. I have yet to complete a similar review of studies to find out what the average score of autistic study subjects is on this test, but one figure that has been given is 21.9, which is only about four points below the mean score for non-autistic study subjects, and is certainly not evidence of a serious deficit in facial expression reading as a general feature of autism. The Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test cannot be used to diagnose autism, and it is too unreliable to use to draw any conclusions about individuals.

So, really, what is a normal score on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test?


Fine, Cordelia (2010) Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences. Icon Books, 2010.

Baron-Cohen, Simon (2003) The essential difference. Penguin Books, 2003.

Martin Voracek and Stefan G. Dressler (2006) Lack of correlation between digit ratio (2D:4D) and Baron-Cohen’s “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test, empathy, systemising, and autism-spectrum quotients in a general population sample. Personality and Individual Differences. Volume 41, Issue 8, December 2006. P. 1481-1491.

Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Hill J, Raste Y, Plumb I.(2001) The "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Child Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines. 2001 Feb;42(2):241-51.

Reading the mind in the eyes (test)

Autism Research Centre

Australia's first hand transplant on 60 Minutes tonight

The world's first hand transplant was done in France in 1998, according to the story about Australia's first hand transplant on Australian 60 Minutes tonight. The Australian operation took over nine hours to complete. See what is involved in a hand transplant at around 9 minutes into the story which can be viewed online.

Does the hand transplant atrocity anecdote recently told and written about by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen in his new book and also in an interview with New Scientist magazine seem believeable to me after watching this news story? No it does not.

A Helping Hand.
Reporter Charles Wooley
60 Minutes (Australia)
May 1st 2011