Sunday, August 09, 2009

Identity Crisis

From the NYT, a nice article on our sense of self and its vulnerability to brain injury.

Doctors have known for nearly 100 years that a small number of psychiatric patients become profoundly suspicious of their closest relationships, often cutting themselves off from those who love them and care for them. They may insist that their spouse is an impostor; that their grown children are body doubles; that a caregiver, a close friend, even their entire family is fake, a duplicate version.

Such delusions are often symptoms of schizophrenia. But in the last decade or so, researchers have documented similar delusions in hundreds of people who are not schizophrenic but have neurological problems including dementia, brain surgery and traumatic blows to the head.

A small group of brain scientists is now investigating misidentification syndromes, as the delusions are called, for clues to one of the most confounding problems in brain science: identity. How and where does the brain maintain the “self”?

It's a long article full of clues for those interested in what constitutes self.