The living dead? Perception of persons in the unresponsive wakefulness syndrome in Germany compared to the USA.
ABSTRACT: The extent to which people ascribe mind to others has been shown to predict the extent to which human rights are conferred. Therefore, in the context of disorders of consciousness (DOC), mind ascription can influence end of life decisions. A previous US-American study indicated that participants ascribed even less mind to patients with unresponsive-wakefulness-syndrome (UWS) than to the dead. Results were explained in terms of implicit dualism and religious beliefs, as highly religious people ascribed least mind to UWS. Here, we addresses mind ascription to UWS patients in Germany.We investigate the perception of UWS patients in a large German sample (N?=?910) and compare the results to the previous US data, addressing possible cultural differences. We further assess effects of medical expertise, age, gender, socio-economic status and subjective knowledge about UWS in the German sample.Unlike the US sample, German participants did not perceive UWS patients as "more dead than dead", ascribing either equal (on 3 of 5 items) or more (on 2 items) mental abilities to UWS patients than to the dead. Likewise, an effect of implicit dualism was not replicated and German medically trained participants ascribed more capabilities to UWS patients than did a non-medical sample. Within the German sample, age, gender, religiosity and socio-economic status explained about 15% of the variability of mind ascription. Age and religiosity were individually significant predictors, younger and more religious people ascribing more mind. Gender had no effect.Results are consistent with cross-cultural differences in the perception of UWS between Germany and the USA, Germans ascribing more mind to UWS patients. The German sample ascribed as much or more but not less mind to a UWS patient than to a deceased, although within group variance was large, calling for further research. Mind ascription is vital, because, in times of declining resources for healthcare systems, and an increasing legalization of euthanasia, public opinion will influence UWS patients' rights and whether 'the right to die' will be the only right conceded to them.
Project description:Ascribing mental states to non-human agents has been shown to increase their likeability and lead to better joint-task performance in human-robot interaction (HRI). However, it is currently unclear what physical features non-human agents need to possess in order to trigger mind attribution and whether different aspects of having a mind (e.g., feeling pain, being able to move) need different levels of human-likeness before they are readily ascribed to non-human agents. The current study addresses this issue by modeling how increasing the degree of human-like appearance (on a spectrum from mechanistic to humanoid to human) changes the likelihood by which mind is attributed towards non-human agents. We also test whether different internal states (e.g., being hungry, being alive) need different degrees of humanness before they are ascribed to non-human agents. The results suggest that the relationship between physical appearance and the degree to which mind is attributed to non-human agents is best described as a two-linear model with no change in mind attribution on the spectrum from mechanistic to humanoid robot, but a significant increase in mind attribution as soon as human features are included in the image. There seems to be a qualitative difference in the perception of mindful versus mindless agents given that increasing human-like appearance alone does not increase mind attribution until a certain threshold is reached, that is: agents need to be classified as having a mind first before the addition of more human-like features significantly increases the degree to which mind is attributed to that agent.
Project description:The elusive relationship between the mental domain and the physical brain, known as the mind-body problem, is still a hot topic of discussion among philosophers and neuroscientists. Rather than solving this problem, our pilot study addresses the question as to whether personality features could influence intuitions of the mind-body problem, or more precisely, whether it is possible to identify a person's intuitive inclinations toward dualism or materialism and their inclinations toward reduction of the mind to the brain. For the purposes of this pilot study, we developed a questionnaire, which employed several theories of analytic philosophy of the mind, in order to determine which category the participants would belong to. These main categories were dualism, non-reductive materialism and reductive materialism. To test whether personality features affect preferences for these categories, the participants were investigated by Cloninger's Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). We found significant differences in the self-transcendence dimension of the TCI between participants who were evaluated as dualists and those who were assessed as reductive materialists. Our data show that the personality dimension of self-transcendence correlates with intuitive inclination toward reductive materialism or dualism. In addition, our results suggest that ideas, theories, and hypothetical solutions of the mind-body problem and possibly even conclusions, acceptance, and disputations of thought experiments of philosophy of the mind can be biased by personality traits. This fact should be taken into account in future discussions of the philosophy of the mind and may also be important for empirical research and an empirical understanding of the mind.
Project description:Self-concept is deeply affected in schizophrenia. Positive symptoms in particular are related to disturbed self/other distinctions. The neural networks underlying self-evaluation in schizophrenia have barely been investigated. The study reported here involved 13 patients with schizophrenia and 13 matched controls. During functional MRI, participants decided in three conditions whether the presented positive and negative personality traits characterized themselves, an intimate person, or included a certain letter. Based on the responses, each experimental condition was designed using a flexible factorial model. Controls and patients showed a similar behavioral pattern during self-evaluation, with group comparison revealing decreased activation in patients in the left inferior temporal gyrus and both temporal poles during self-ascription of traits, and in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex during evaluation of an intimate person. In patients, positive symptoms correlated positively with brain activation in the left parahippocampus during trait self-ascription. Hence, while evaluating themselves, schizophrenia patients revealed decreased activation in areas related to self-awareness overlapping with networks involved in theory of mind, empathy and social knowledge. Moreover, patients' brain activation during self-reflection was affected by the current positive symptomatology. The close interaction between self and other highlights the clinical and social relevance of self-processing deficits in schizophrenia.
Project description:This article challenges the claim that young children's helping responses in Buttelmann, Carpenter, and Tomasello's (2009) task are based on ascribing a false belief to a mistaken agent. In our first Study 18- to 32-month old children (N = 28) were more likely to help find a toy in the false belief than in the true belief condition. In Study 2, with 54 children of the same age, we assessed the authors' mentalist interpretation of this result against an alternative teleological interpretation that does not make the assumption of belief ascription. The data speak in favor of our alternative. Children's social competency is based more on inferences about what is likely to happen in a particular situation and on objective reasons for action than on inferences about agents' mental states. We also discuss the need for testing serious alternative interpretations of claims about early belief understanding.
Project description:Most people believe in free will. Whether this belief is warranted or not, free will beliefs (FWB) are foundational for many legal systems and reducing FWB has effects on behavior from the motor to the social level. This raises the important question as to which specific FWB people hold. There are many different ways to conceptualize free will, and some might see physical determinism as a threat that might reduce FWB, while others might not. Here, we investigate lay FWB in a large, representative, replicated online survey study in the US and Singapore (n = 1800), assessing differences in FWB with unprecedented depth within and between cultures. Specifically, we assess the relation of FWB, as measured using the Free Will Inventory, to determinism, dualism and related concepts like libertarianism and compatibilism. We find that libertarian, compatibilist, and dualist, intuitions were related to FWB, but that these intuitions were often logically inconsistent. Importantly, direct comparisons suggest that dualism was more predictive of FWB than other intuitions. Thus, believing in free will goes hand-in-hand with a belief in a non-physical mind. Highlighting the importance of dualism for FWB impacts academic debates on free will, which currently largely focus on its relation to determinism. Our findings also shed light on how recent (neuro)scientific findings might impact FWB. Demonstrating physical determinism in the brain need not have a strong impact on FWB, due to a wide-spread belief in dualism.
Project description:We propose an integrative cognitive neuroscience framework for understanding the cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief. Our analysis reveals 3 psychological dimensions of religious belief (God's perceived level of involvement, God's perceived emotion, and doctrinal/experiential religious knowledge), which functional MRI localizes within networks processing Theory of Mind regarding intent and emotion, abstract semantics, and imagery. Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary adaptive cognitive functions.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Historically, research investigating neural correlates of mentalizing deficits in schizophrenia has focused on patients who have been ill for several years with lengthy exposure to medication. Little is known about the neural and behavioral presentations of theory-of-mind deficits in schizophrenia, shortly after the first episode of psychosis. METHODS:We investigated social cognition in 17 recently diagnosed first-episode schizophrenia (FES) patients with little or no exposure to antipsychotic medication and 1:1 matched healthy controls. We recorded behavioral and neural responses to the Animated Triangles Task (ATT), which is a nonverbal validated mentalizing task that measures the ascription of intentionality to the movements of objects. RESULTS:FES patients under-interpreted social cues and over-interpreted nonsocial cues. These effects were influenced by current intelligence (IQ). Control group and FES neural responses replicated earlier findings in healthy adults. However, a region of anterior medial prefrontal cortex (amPFC) of FES patients showed a different response pattern to that of controls. Unlike healthy controls, patients increased activity in this social cognition region while studying "random" movements of shapes, as compared to the study of movements normally interpreted as "intentional". CONCLUSIONS:Mentalizing deficits in FES consists of hypo- and hypermentalizing. The neural pattern of FES patients is consistent with deficits in the ability to switch off mentalizing processes in potentially social contexts, instead increasing them when intentionality is not forthcoming. Overall, results demonstrate complexities of theory of mind deficits in schizophrenia that should be considered when offering social cognitive training programs.
Project description:Limited research has examined how aspects of religion and spirituality can be incorporated into community-based physical activity programs delivered outside of religious institutions. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore how spirituality and religion can be leveraged in the design of community-based physical activity programs for African American women delivered outside of faith-based or faith-placed settings.Three focus groups were conducted were conducted with 23 African American women (M age = 37.8 years, M BMI = 39.6 kg m2). Results showed that incorporating aspects of spirituality (i.e., words encouraging connectedness to a higher power, meditation, mind-body activities) into a physical activity program was universally accepted among participants, regardless of religious affiliation. In contrast, including concepts of religion (i.e., bible verses and/or quotes from religious leaders) was controversial and not recommended among women who did not identify with a religious faith. Findings indicate that when developing community-based physical activity interventions that will not be delivered through faith-based or faith-placed settings, researchers should avoid references to specific religious beliefs. Instead, interventions should focus on spirituality and emphasize the mind-body relationship between physical activity and an African American women's inner-being and her connectedness with a higher power. Trial Registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02823379. Registered July 1, 2016.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>Little is known about the long-term outcome of patients with disorders of consciousness (DOCs) such as unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS) or minimally conscious state (MCS). We describe the disease course of a large group of DOC patients 2-14 years after brain damage.<h4>Methods</h4>In 102 patients (59 UWS, 43 MCS), clinical and demographic variables from disorder onset were related to the patients' outcomes 2-14 years after discharge. Etiology, age at event, time since onset, gender, and home care versus institutional care were assessed as predictors and similarities and differences between UWS and MCS determined.<h4>Results</h4>Seventy-one percent of the patients had passed away or showed no improvement in condition. Twenty-nine percent regained consciousness and developed some communicative capacities. The time a syndrome persisted did not predict clinical outcome in either condition. Six patients regained consciousness after more than 3 years. Of these, five had been UWS (42% of recovered UWS, three traumatic origins, one tumor, one hypoxia) and one MCS (5% of recovered MCS, traumatic origin). In UWS, younger patients, those cared for at home, and in tendency those with traumatic origins, were more likely to recover. In MCS, no reliable outcome predictors were found.<h4>Interpretation</h4>Current predictors are too vague for single patient predictions. This study identifies a subgroup of late-recovering patients, casting doubt on the 12-month boundary, after which UWS is stated to be permanent. Routine reexamination, use of more reliable outcome predictors and research determining optimal care settings are needed to inform the crucial decisions made for these patients.
Project description:The differentiation of the vegetative or unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) from the minimally conscious state (MCS) is an important clinical issue. The cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (CMRglc) declines when consciousness is lost, and may reveal the residual cognitive function of these patients. However, no quantitative comparisons of cerebral glucose metabolism in VS/UWS and MCS have yet been reported. We calculated the regional and whole-brain CMRglc of 41 patients in the states of VS/UWS (n=14), MCS (n=21) or emergence from MCS (EMCS, n=6), and healthy volunteers (n=29). Global cortical CMRglc in VS/UWS and MCS averaged 42% and 55% of normal, respectively. Differences between VS/UWS and MCS were most pronounced in the frontoparietal cortex, at 42% and 60% of normal. In brainstem and thalamus, metabolism declined equally in the two conditions. In EMCS, metabolic rates were indistinguishable from those of MCS. Ordinal logistic regression predicted that patients are likely to emerge into MCS at CMRglc above 45% of normal. Receiver-operating characteristics showed that patients in MCS and VS/UWS can be differentiated with 82% accuracy, based on cortical metabolism. Together these results reveal a significant correlation between whole-brain energy metabolism and level of consciousness, suggesting that quantitative values of CMRglc reveal consciousness in severely brain-injured patients.