“The Inflamed Mind”

A few weeks ago, on my way to work, I was listening to Radio Scotland. One of the lead news reports was based on an interview with Professor Ed Bullmore of the University of Cambridge in which he discussed research in  “the new science of immuno-psychiatry”. After work, I found that this matter was being further discussed on a number of national broadcast channels.

The Guardian newspaper of the day before had this report:

I have long been interested in the potential mechanisms for stress in contributing to mental health conditions. Early in my career I followed the research of my colleague, Professor Ian C. Reid, into brain changes (at the neuronal level) that appeared to be related to chronic stress.

On the 26 April 2018 Professor Bullmore had this book published:

Almost a decade ago, Professor Bullmore was the lead author of this Editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry:

 

The reporting of Ed Bullmore’s theories and research is, I think, worth commenting on.

I find myself troubled by some of the headlines used, such as the Guardian Editorial titled: “This revolution in our understanding of depression will be life-transforming”. This is an unequivocal statement, yet the supporting scientific papers, at least the ones that I have read, offer no such far-reaching claims.

I also find myself troubled that an author who, not so long ago, was keen to divide us into “neurophobes” or “real” scientists is now talking (rather clumsily if I may say) about Cartesian divides.

Asking questions of neurogenetic determinism is not “neurophobia”. Such questioning is the basis of scientific philosophy. To me, Professor Bullmore’s reasoning is hard to follow if not paradoxical.

Professor Bullmore’s book has a curious title: what on earth would an “Inflamed Mind” look like? To me it conjures up a scary, dystopian burning landscape. The word inflammation is defined as:

As far as I was aware, it was not mentioned in any interview that Professor Bullmore work’s half-time for GSK: “leading a small group focused on immunological mechanisms and therapeutics for mood disorders”. This lack of transparency has to be concerning.

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