Diametrical Disorders of the Social Brain

Oct 17, 2021

Thanks to research on autism and modes of cognition, as well as brain imaging research — there appear to be regions of the brain that are associated with mechanical reasoning and mechanical tasks associated with social reasoning.

The diametrical model of mental illness states that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) feature deficits in interpersonal skills (or mentalism as they put it). Psychotic spectrum disorders (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, schizophreniform disorder, brief psychotic disorder, psychosis) are seen as the opposite — featuring hyper-mentalism.

Hypo-Mentalism vs Hyper-Mentalism

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they gaze and look at you.

In autism spectrum disorders, there tends to be a lack of social awareness. This can cause abnormalities in one’s emotions, beliefs, and behavioral intentions. For example, people with autism spectrum disorders may not be able to recognize the significance of one’s gaze towards them. You might call this an instance of “hypo-mentalism.”

On the other hand, if you were to gaze intently at a person with a psychotic disorder, say schizophrenia, they may be hypersensitive and have a strong emotional reaction. This person might believe that someone is out to get them, spying on them, or watching them. We can consider this an instance of “hyper-mentalism.”

Both people with ASD and people with psychotic disorders tend to be bad at interacting with groups — but for opposite reasons. Someone with ASD might not be able to appreciate or recognize social cues and hence engage in socializing the same way a normal person would. Someone with schizophrenia or psychosis might be paranoid or over-interpret social cues, creating conspiracies in their head that are not true.

There are many other patterns that are evident in the opposite nature of these diametric mental illnesses.

Autism spectrum disorders experience the following:

  • Gaze monitoring deficits
  • Insensitivity to voices
  • Deficits in intentionality
  • Shared attention deficits
  • Theory of mind deficits
  • Superficial beliefs
  • Typically non-empathetic
  • Deficits in ability to create and direct their own actions
  • Literalness, with an inability to deceive oneself
  • Single mindedness
  • Early onset and diagnosis

Psychotic disorders experience the opposite:

  • Paranoid delusions of being spied on
  • Hallucinations and hyper-sensitivity to voices
  • Hyper-intentionality and paranoia
  • Delusions of conspiracy
  • Magical ideation
  • Religious delusions
  • Occassionally hyper-empathetic
  • Obsessions and delusions of their own power
  • Delusional self-deception
  • Constant mixed feelings and contradictory ideas
  • Adult onset and diagnosis

What Are The Implications of These Findings?

Now that we have identified parts of the brain that are associated with these mental illnesses, this research may help us in the future to better treat both conditions. With brain imaging techniques, like EEGs, we can identify abnormalities in these regions of the brain.

It also gives us better insight into how the brain works, and how we can design transcranial magnetic stimulation protocols that may benefit people with both autism spectrum disorders and psychotic disorders. There already exist TMS protocols for Autism, but protocols for psychotic disorders like schizophrenia are less explored.

Many TMS protocols excite neurons that are underactive — such as what is seen in people with depression or autism. But, there also exists inhibitory TMS protocols, such as what can be seen with a device like the Theta Burst Stimulation Express TMS machine.

The Theta Burst Stimulation Express TMS machine can leverage both intermittent TBS (iTBS) and Continuous TBS (cTBS). Intermittent TBS (iTBS) is an excitatory stimulation, whereas Continuous TBS (cTBS) is an inhibitory stimulation.

With further research into the realm of TMS therapy, we may be able to use the magnificent TMS technologies to effectively treat mental illnesses beyond treatment-resistant depression.

Sources

  1. Badcock, C., Ph.D. (2009, May 8). Hyper-mentalism: An Insight Whose Time Has Come. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-imprinted-brain/200905/hyper-mentalism-insight-whose-time-has-come
  2. Badcock, C., Ph.D. (2017, July 5). The ABC of the Diametric Model, Twenty Years On. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-imprinted-brain/201707/the-abc-the-diametric-model-twenty-years
  3. Badcock, C., Ph.D. (2014, April 11). Brain Imaging Reveals the Diametric Mind. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-imprinted-brain/201404/brain-imaging-reveals-the-diametric-mind
  4. Badcock, C., Ph.D. (2016, March 3). Imagination and the Diametric Model of Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-imprinted-brain/201603/imagination-and-the-diametric-model-mental-illness
  5. Badcock, C., Ph.D. (2016, May 30). Now You See It: Diametric Differences Revealed in the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-imprinted-brain/201605/now-you-see-it-diametric-differences-revealed-in-the-brain

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