The Delight of Scientific Discovery

Art historians point to images like John Henry Fuseli’s 1754 painting “The Nightmare” as early depictions of sleep paralysis.

Consensus among my family and friends is that I’m weird. I’m good with that. Being weird may explain why, on the Saturday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, I was delighted to be searching PsycINFO for citations to fit into the revised Mental Status Examination chapter of our Clinical Interviewing textbook.

One thing: I found a fantastic article on Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). If you’ve never heard of FAS, you’re certainly not alone. Here’s the excerpt from our chapter:   

Many other distinctive deviations from normal speech are possible, including a rare condition referred to as “foreign accent syndrome.” Individuals with this syndrome speak with a nonnative accent. Both neurological and psychogenic factors have been implicated in the development of foreign accent syndrome (Romö et al., 2021).

Romö’s article, cited above, described research indicating that some forms of FAS have clear neurological or brain-based etiologies, while others appear psychological in origin. Turns out they may be able to discriminate between the two based on “Schwa insertion and /r/ production.” How cool is that? To answer my own question: Very cool!.

Not to be outdone, a research team from Oxford (Isham et al., 2021) reported on qualitative interviews with 15 patients who had grandiose delusions. They wrote: “All patients described the grandiose belief as highly meaningful: it provided a sense of purpose, belonging, or self-identity, or it made sense of unusual or difficult events.” Ever since I worked about 1.5 years in a psychiatric hospital back in 1980-81, I’ve had affection for people with psychotic disorders, and felt their grandiose delusions held meaning. Wow.  

One last delight, and then I’ll get back to my obsessive PsycINFO search-aholism.

Having experienced sleep paralysis when I was a frosh/soph attending Mount Hood Community College in 1975-1976, I’ve always been super-delighted to discover old and new information about multi-sensory (and bizarre) experiences linked to sleep paralysis episodes. Today I found two articles stunningly relevant to my 1970s SP experiences. One looked at over 300 people and their sleep paralysis/out-of-body experiences. They found that having out-of-body experiences during sleep paralysis reduced the usual distress linked to sleep paralysis. The other study surveyed 185 people with sleep paralysis and found that most of them, as I did in the 1970s, experienced hallucinations of people in the room and many believed the “others” in the room to be supernatural. I find these results oddly confirming of my long-passed sleep insomnia experiences.

All this delight at scientific discovery leads me to conclude that (a) knowledge exists, (b) we should seek out that knowledge, and (c) gaining knowledge can help us better understand our own experiences, as well as the experiences of others.

And another conclusion: We should all offer a BIG THANKS to all the scientists out there grinding out research and contributing to society . . . one study at a time.

For more: Here’ a link to a cool NPR story on sleep paralysis: https://www.npr.org/2019/11/21/781724874/seeing-monsters-it-could-be-the-nightmare-of-sleep-paralysis

References

Isham, L., Griffith, L., Boylan, A., Hicks, A., Wilson, N., Byrne, R., . . . Freeman, D. (2021). Understanding, treating, and renaming grandiose delusions: A qualitative study. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 94(1), 119-140. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/papt.12260

Herrero, N. L., Gallo, F. T., Gasca‐Rolín, M., Gleiser, P. M., & Forcato, C. (2022). Spontaneous and induced out‐of‐body experiences during sleep paralysis: Emotions, “aura” recognition, and clinical implications. Journal of Sleep Research, 9. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.13703

Romö, N., Miller, N., & Cardoso, A. (2021). Segmental diagnostics of neurogenic and functional foreign accent syndrome. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 58, 15. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneuroling.2020.100983

Sharpless, B. A., & Kliková, M. (2019). Clinical features of isolated sleep paralysis. Sleep Medicine, 58, 102-106. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2019.03.007

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