Stuart Derbyshire in Sp!ked Review of Books reviews Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World by Professor Chris Frith
Professor Chris Frith, as he describes in his new book Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World, has dedicated much of his academic career to the study of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a highly complex psychiatric disorder where the person suffers from, amongst other things, distorted thinking, hallucinations, and a reduced ability to feel normal emotions.
As Frith explains: ‘There are no objective physical signs of schizophrenia. The diagnosis is based on what the patient tells the doctor. Patients say that they hear voices when no one is there (false perceptions – hallucinations). Patients describe how they are persecuted by their colleagues at work when there is no evidence that this is the case (false beliefs – delusions). Patients with hallucinations and delusions are sometimes described as being out of touch with reality. But it is the mental world, rather than the physical world, that they have lost touch with.’
Not unreasonably, Frith describes schizophrenia as the consequence of some damage to brain function, damage that we don’t yet fully understand. He makes the very plausible case that if we can understand how mental function comes about in people without schizophrenia we will be better placed to understand how mental function goes so terribly wrong in people with schizophrenia. This draws Frith, and the reader, on to difficult terrain where questions such as ‘what is perception?’, ‘how do we form beliefs?’ and ‘how do we will?’ must be answered.