The Foundation for Applied Psychiatric Anthropology

fapaThe Foundation for Applied Psychiatric Anthropology (FAPA) is a new organization founded by the anthropologist and social worker Rebecca Lester and the psychiatrist Davinder Hayreh.

The Foundation “promotes the use of ethnographic research and mixed-methods approaches to improve understandings and treatments of mental illness, broadly defined. FAPA facilitates collaboration among scholars and practitioners who wish to integrate clinical work with ethnographic research and advocacy initiatives related to culture and mental health.”

FAPA also offers reduced-fee psychotherapy services to residents in the Saint Louis, Missouri area. To find out more, check out FAPA’s description of its clinical services and approach.

Rebecca Lester is a professor of anthropology at Washington University in Saint Louis. You can read about her treatment philosophy. For researchers, Rebecca has put together a great list of books in psychiatric anthropology.

And here’s Davinder Hayreh’s LinkedIn profile. He is presently nearing the finish of his residency in psychiatry at Barnes-Jewish Hosptial in Saint Louis.

For more information, you can contact them at office @ [remove spaces].

Alvaro Fernandez and Brain Plasticity

It’s not the best quality video ever, but it’s great to see Alvaro Fernandez – of SharpBrains fame – in action in this clip Amazing Findings in Neuroplasticity. Quite a good overview in five minutes.

Greg has covered neuroplasticity before, as well as the research on cab drivers.

Over at SharpBrains you can check out Brain Plasticity: How Learning Changes the Brain and The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains.

SharpBrains has its own YouTube Sharpbrains channel, with nine other videos for your viewing pleasure.

Grand Stone

grandson_menhirTwo carnivals are out.

Grand Rounds brings together the best medical blogging of the past week, and this time it’s at Chronic Babe where it goes totally babelicious.

From tampons to breast exams it’s got it all. But you can even find Sharp Brains’ argument that brain training is heading for a productive tipping point.

Four Stone Hearth rounds up anthropology, and A Very Remote Period Indeed brings us the New Hope edition.

One piece I enjoyed was a summary of arguments about the Out of Africa hypothesis over at Remote Central. But there’s plenty other stones to explore!

Wednesday Round Up #48

Last week we did a special theme – Obama is a neuroanthropologist – but this week it’s back to normal. I’ll cover some things that might already be two weeks old (gasp!), but it’s all for a good cause – your own reading pleasure.

So this time we have some favorites, then PTSD, some anthropology, some brain stuff, decision making, and fighting inequality. Yes, lots of categories – I’m catching up… Enjoy!

Top of the List

Dennis Overbye, Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy
I liked this essay, for its examination of science as both a search for truth and a pragmatic endeavor that also happens to teach values

Jane Brody, Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You
Getting down and dirty for a better immunological system. I was just talking about this in my med anthro class, contrasting the science with people who are obsessed with cleanliness.

Jennifer Ruark, In the Thrall of Neuroscience
Chronicle of Higher Education piece from December – finally found a complete online version. All about the new interdisciplinary interest and collaboration with neuroscientists. I even get a quote!

Ed Yong, Pre-emptive Blood Flow Raises Big Questions about fMRI
Cool study about blood going to parts of the brain in anticipation of activation


After reading my students’ great post on veterans and post-traumatic stress disorder, I came across some PTSD readings to share.

Anxiety Insights, Mind-Body Skills Reduce PTSD in War-Traumatized Children
“biofeedback, meditation, guided imagery and self-expression (in words, drawings, and movement) produce lasting changes in levels of stress, flashbacks, nightmares and symptoms of withdrawal and numbing in adolescents living in a region of conflict.”

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The Commons

A big hat-tip to Keith Hart, where you can go explore his ideas about the common wealth.

Want some online commons? Try Flickr’s The Commons public photo project. Or Savage Minds’ arguments for Open Access Open Source scholarly material. Or the Opensource Handbook of Neuroscience.

You can also read about the classic Science article by Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons. And explore more broadly at

Forever at War: Veterans’ Everyday Battles with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

ptsd-iwo-jima“To this day, every time I smell firecrackers or fire arms being shot, I feel like I am right back there. All I have to do is close my eyes and I see the whole scenario over and over again. I can’t erase it.”

Hundreds of thousands of US veterans are not able to leave the horrors of war on the battlefield. They bring the combat home and re-experience it in their minds each and every day, no matter how much time has passed.

“I don’t like people. I just live my life.”

Many PTSD veterans live a life riddled with divorce, unemployment, and loneliness because they are unable to form lasting social networks within civilian life. It is not uncommon for a war veteran plagued with PTSD to desire a solitary life in the mountains. One informant described Montana as the ideal locale – far away and quiet.

“I should have buried him.”

This veteran is still tormented by the fact he did not give an honorable burial to a fellow soldier. He knows he would have met a similar fate if he tried to leave his foxhole; yet his inability to act haunts his memory. He asks himself everyday why he didn’t even try to honor his fallen comrade. He also has never been able to justify why he wasn’t the soldier left unburied on that remote Pacific island.

“I didn’t even have the motivation to kill myself.”

Many of these men and women believe their situation will never improve. Some contemplate suicide as their only relief from the symptoms of PTSD. A number of the veterans we spoke with had thought about or even tried to end their own lives. They also participate in risky activities, threatening their life in a deliberate yet indirect way.

“I always feel like there is someone behind me – following me.”

Being on edge is the only way to survive in combat. Unfortunately, many PTSD veterans are unable to readjust within the civilian world. Everyday life becomes a battlefield.

Something as mundane as walking through a crowded grocery store aisle can be a source of intense anxiety for a veteran suffering from PTSD. Overwhelmed by a feeling that the shoppers behind them are enemies, PTSD veterans always feel as if they are under attack. A trigger as simple as the clashing of shopping carts can make them jump in fear of an imminent explosion. They are forever at war.


Over the course of 4 months, South Bend veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have revealed their daily realities to us, five undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame. In conjunction with a course taught by Dr. Daniel Lende entitled Researching Disease: Methods in Medical Anthropology, we have engaged in community-based research with members and supporters of PTSD, Vets, Inc. Here, with the approval and encouragement of these vets, we seek to give their experiences a well-deserved voice.

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More Than A Waiting Room

main-waiting-room1By Jillian Brems, Erin Brennan, Katrina Epperson, Jordan Pearce & Anna Weber

“I just don’t want this to be the visit that changes my life,” said the middle-aged woman waiting for a mammogram at the Regional Breast Care Center. For an estimated 240,510 women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, their visit to the waiting room did change their lives. This is the concern that patients and their friends, families, and significant others face every time they visit the center.

This feeling of stress and anxiety isn’t just for first-time visitors either. Even women who have had many mammograms worry before a visit because, as one patient put it, “You just never know.” Women are forced to come to terms with the uncertainty factor when they enter the hospital clinic. “It’s the results I’m absolutely terrified of,” another patient said, “not the procedure.”

During this past fall the five of us—all anthropology students at the University of Notre Dame—evaluated the waiting rooms at the Regional Breast Care Center (RBCC). It has been nine years since the waiting room at RBCC last changed, and our ethnographic research focused on determining how to better meet the needs of all who use the space. The director and staff had basic questions whether the waiting rooms still fulfilled the diverse needs of their patients and those who accompany them, and what new things could be done to improve patient satisfaction and comfort.

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