Season 2 Psychology Episode Guide
by Mishka and Gabrielle Harbowy
(2x01) Little Green Men
(2x02) The Host
"Specific Phobia" is the term used to designate an excessive, unreasonable fear that is brought on by the presence or anticipation of an object or situation. It is a persistent fear, in that all exposure to the stimulus (flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood) or anticipation of the stimulus brings about an immediate anxiety response.
Often, a phobic adult will recognize that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Phobic children will not. Children and adults will go to extreme lengths to avoid the phobic stimulus. This avoidance can interfere significantly with the person's normal routine and responsibilities. Dealing with the inconvenience of avoiding the stimulus can be as frustrating as the phobia itself.
Phobias can sometimes be explained by other mental disorders, such as in the case of an individual with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who has an excessive fear of dirt. This could be a side effect of his/her obsession about cleanliness. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can cause an individual to avoid the main Stressor (a war veteran may avoid combat movies, or sudden loud noises).
Common categories of phobias: Animal Type, Natural Environment Type (e.g., heights, storms, water), Blood-Injection-Injury Type, Situational Type (e.g., airplanes, elevators, enclosed places)
(2x05) Duane Barry
Issue: Behavior after severe brain injury
Duane Barry claims to be a repeat alien abductee. However, when he takes his psychiatrist, travel agency employees, and Mulder hostage, Scully discovers that he had been shot in the head in the line of duty with the F.B.I. This resulted in extreme changes in Barry's behavior, which Scully compared to the famous case of Phineus Gage.
PHINEAS GAGE and ORBITOFRONTAL CORTEX :
Phineas Gage was an honest, hardworking railroad laborer until one day in September, 1848. In a freak accident, a dynamite charge exploded, sending the inch-thick tamping rod through Gage's cheek, obliterating his left eye and rocketing out the top of his skull. Gage was still fully able to function physically: his motion, speech, and thought processes seemed unaffected. But his personality underwent dramatic changes. He had become loud, foulmouthed and ill-mannered. He was given to lying and creating extravagant schemes on which he never followed through.
The portion of Gage's brain which was destroyed is the orbitofrontal cortex - that section of the brain which hangs directly over the eyes. People without the use of the OFC are able to explain implications of complex social situations when they are presented in hypothetical ways, but are unable to respond appropriately when the situations actually occur. They are moral and ethical beings only in theoretical -- not real-life -- situations.
(2x08) One Breath
(2x10) Red Museum
(2x11) Excelsius Dei
Issue: Parkinson's Disease
This episode takes place at a geriatric hospital, where several residents who have been suffering from Parkinson's Disease are undergoing an experimetal treatment for the disease -- administered by a custodian at the home. The treatment seems to be reversing the effects of Parkinson's, but with some X-Files side effects.
Parkinson's is the 3rd most frequent neurological disorder. (number one is epilepsy and number two is brain cancer). It affects just under one percent of older adults. PD is the death of the NigroStriatal Dopamine pathway in the brain. This is the system which fine-tunes and smooths physical movement. The dopamine-producing cells just die, for reasons we do not yet understand. By the time symptoms appear, the patient has already lost 80-90 percent of these cells.
The average onset occurs at age 60, but ages from 40-70 have been documented. Life expectancy is about 10 years after onset. The primary symptom is a progressive resting tremor - an involuntary motion which starts in the finger, then progresses gradually to the hand, arm, and rest of the body. Muscular rigidity and difficulty executing any voluntary movements are also common as the disease progresses. Secondary symptoms include poor posture, difficulty swallowing, and micrographia (progressively smaller handwriting).
Parkinson's Disease is of idiopathic origin (which just means that we don't know what causes it), but Parkinsonian symptoms can occur from the following causes:
Treatments include introduction of dopamine pre-cursors; drugs such as antioxidants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors which keep the active dopamine in the system longer; and transplants of living fetal dopamine cells.
Issue: Inheritance of genes predisposing to anti-social behavior
(2x14) Die Hand Die Verletzt
(2x15) Fresh Bones
(2x17) End Game
(2x18) Fearful Symmetry
(2x19) Dod Kalm
(2x21) The Calusari
Issue: Munchausen by Proxy
Munchausen Syndrome is when an individual injures him/herself to get attention. Munchausen by Proxy is when a caregiver (usually a mother) deliberately abuses her children to get attention. She will often give the child mild doses of poison or laxatives, or oversalt the child's food. Breaking bones, suffocating, and scalding the child with boiling water or a hot iron are also common.
The Munchausen by Proxy parent then rushes to the doctor's office or emergency room, telling woeful tales of how the child got hurt. The staff, and occasionally the local press, feel sorry for the parent and give her lots of attention. She becomes a master at manipulating household dangers -- and a master at manipulating medical professionals.
Many of the children of these parents die wrongful deaths to fulfill their mothers' needs for sympathy and attention. Any child who is in the hospital more often than not, and any parent who has lost multiple children one year or older to "crib death", should be investigated to rule out Munchausen by Proxy.
(2x22) F. Emasculata
(2x23) Soft Light
(2x24) Our Town
Issue: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, also known as "spongiform encephalopathy", was named after two Austrian researchers. In 1920, they independently described patients with unusual psychological disorders whose brains, when viewed under a microscope, shared interesting anomalies. Many of the brains' cells had died, resulting in microscopic holes, linked together by tenuous fibers. The brains had the appearance of sponges, hence the term spongiform encephalopathy.
Though first noticed in 1920, it was not until the 1950's that the disease gained attention. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) occurs worldwide. There is approximately one new case per two million people per year. The most common time of onset is over age 55, but it appears to be rare over the age of 80.
Early symptoms include a vague unsteadiness and hesitancy in walking, deteriorating vision (often the patient may mistake everday objects for something else, or even experience hallucinations), slight slurring and slowing of speech, and a difficulty in finding the right word when trying to hold a conversation. As in Parkinson's Disease, fine motor coordination is most affected. The patient rapidly degenerates, with the development of incontinence, jerky movements, shakiness, stiffness of the limbs, and loss of the ability to move or speak.
As the disease progresses, victims lose awareness of their surroundings and of their disabilities. Individuals affected by CJD usually succumb within six months of the onset of the disease, often through penumonia. In only 10 percent of cases does the disease run a more prolonged course of two to five years, and in these cases, the first years may only involve loss of memory and some difficulty with complex tasks.
At this time, there is no known cure or treatment that can halt the progress of the disease.
Where's the X-File in this, you ask?
Some people who had received treatment with human growth hormone developed Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, due to receiving hormone from the pituitary glands of people who had died of CJD. Since 1985, human growth hormone has been made artificially and there are now no risks of acquiring the disease this way.
There has been much debate focused on whether we can catch CJD from eating animals infected with other spongioform disorders (scrapie and BSE). Research appears to indicate that the disease cannot be transmitted through the ingestion of infected tissue. Additionally, there has been a ban on the use of certain tissues from cattle for human consumption.
Issue: Psychogenic drugs