Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When brains go wrong...

Last weekend I attended several events at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. Among many interesting speakers was Jon Ronson, whose latest book is The Psychopath Test: an investigation into the world of abnormal psychology that started when he was asked to follow up a mysterious treatise that had been mailed to a neurologist in London. He was a funny and self-deprecating speaker, presenting himself as a modern-day Jerome K Jerome who, by the time he'd read a few chapters of the psychiatric manual, had diagnosed himself with a dozen mental ailments. He talked about the difficulty of diagnosis in cases of madness and mental illness; he (wisely, I think) steered clear of neurology and concentrated on psychology, which kept the subject approachable but left me wanting to run back to Lone Frank's Mindfield for more information.

I bought the book. The first chapter concludes with this illustration of the title of his Opera House talk: Psychopaths Make the World Go Round.
"Aren't you struck by how much action occurred simply because something went wrong with one man's brain? It's as if the rational world, your world, was a still pond and Petter's brain was a jagged rock thrown into it, creating odd ripples everywhere."
You can also see a clip of an interview with Jon Ronson by ABC television's Leigh Sales here.

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