Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The ‘Mad Scientist ‘ Stereotype : A thin Line between Insanity and Genius



E.A. Poe

Many of the history’s most celebrated and creative genuises were mentally ill, right from E.A. Poe to Issac Newton.And today this mental connection between Insanity and Genius seems no longer a myth.

Possibly its this insanity, which breeds genius or creativity as it gives the sufferer a different perception, which is quite hard to achieve in normal people.

Genius and insanity may actually go together, according to scientists who found that mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are often found in highly creative and intelligent people.

Bipolar sufferer Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of  Medicine, said that findings of some 20 or 30 scientific studies confirms the idea of the "tortured genius" or "mad scientist".   Jamison said that creativity appears to be significantly linked to mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder.  For instance, one 2010 study that tested the intelligence of 700,000 Swedish 16-year-olds found that highly intelligent adolescents were more likely to develop bipolar disorder in a decade-long follow-up.

Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people have dramatic mood swings between "mania" or extreme happiness and severe depression. 

Panelist and researcher James Fallon, a neurobiologist at the University of California-Irvine said that research found that people who suffer bipolar disorder tend to be more creative when they’re coming out of deep depression. Fallon suggested that when a bipolar patients' mood improves, activity decreases in the lower part of a brain region called the frontal lobe and increases in a higher part of that lobe, a shift that is also seen when people have bouts of creativity.

"There [is] this nexus between these circuits that have to do with bipolar and creativity,"

Elyn Saks, a mental health law professor at the University of Southern California who also developed schizophrenia as a young adult, said that people with psychosis do not filter stimuli as well as others without the disorder, meaning that they're able to ponder contradictory ideas simultaneously and gain insight into loose associations that the general unconscious brain wouldn't even consider worthy of sending to consciousness.

Saks said that while the invasion of nonsense into conscious thought can be overwhelming and disruptive, "it can be quite creative, too."

Studies on word associations that ask participants to list all the words that come to mind in relation to a stimulus word like "tulip" found that bipolar patients experiencing mild mania can generate three times as many word associations in the same amount of time as the general population. 

The findings suggest that mania can lead to bouts of genius because the great amount of unsuppressed ideas means a greater probability of producing something original and profound.

Many prodigies like painter Van Gogh, author Jack Kerouac and mathematician John Nash had displayed self-destructive behaviors, and it is unclear as to why humans have evolved this trait. 

"The notion of a 'tortured genius' or 'mad scientist' may be more than a romantic aberration," says the World Science Fair. "Research shows that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia correlate with high creativity and intelligence, raising tantalizing questions: What role does environment play in the path to mental illness?"

Scientists wonder whether the mental disorders are being positively selected for in the gene pool, and if there is actually a line between gift and deficit. 

Past studies have suggested that much of the link between genius and madness is produced by one particular gene called the DARPP-32, and that three out of four people inherit a version of the DARPP-32 gene, which enhances the brain's ability to think by improving information processing in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. 


Sir Issac Newton

However panelists noted that while society benefits from the productivity of its "tortured geniuses," people who are affected by mental disorders that often lead to bouts of creative energy don’t always consider their moment of brilliance to be worth their suffering.

Original Article at :

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rusalka, the Drowned Virgin


In Slavic mythology, a rusalka  was a female ghost, water nymph, succubus or mermaid-like demon that dwelled in a waterway.
According to most traditions, the rusalki were fish-women, who lived at the bottom of rivers. In the middle of the night, they would walk out to the bank and dance in meadows. If they saw handsome men, they would fascinate them with songs and dancing, mesmerise them, then lead the man away to the river floor to his death.
The stories about rusalki have parallels with those of Hylas and the Nymphs, the Germanic Nix, the Irish Banshee, the Scottish Bean Nighe and the Romanian Iele. See Slavic fairies for similar creatures.

In most versions, the rusalka is an unquiet dead being, associated with the "unclean force". According to Zelenin, people who die violently and before their time, such as young women who commit suicide because they have been jilted by their lovers, or unmarried women who are pregnant, must live out their designated time on earth as a spirit.
The ghostly version is the soul of a young woman who had died in or near a river or a lake and came to haunt that waterway. This undead rusalka is not invariably malevolent, and will be allowed to die in peace if her death is avenged.
Rusalki can also come from unbaptised children, often those who were born out of wedlock and drowned by their mothers for that reason. Baby rusalki supposedly wander the forest begging to be baptised so that they can have peace. They are not necessarily innocent, however, and can attack a human foolish enough to approach them.

While her primary dwelling place was the body of water in which she died, the rusalka could come out of the water at night, climb a tree, and sit there singing songs, sit on a dock and comb her hair, or join other rusalki in circle dances (Russian: ????????, Polish: korowody) in the field.
Rusalka by Ivan Bilibin, 1934
Though in some versions of the myth, the eyes shine like green fire, others describe them with extremely pale and translucent skin, and no visible pupils. Her hair is sometimes depicted as green or golden, and often perpetually wet. The Rusalka could not live long on dry land, but with her comb she was always safe, for it gave her the power to conjure water when she needed it. According to some legends, should the rusalka's hair dry out, she will die.
Rusalki like to have men and children join in their games. They can do so by enticing men with their singing and then drowning them, while the children were often lured with baskets of fruit. Men seduced by the rusalka could die in her arms, and in some versions hearing her laugh could also cause death. Alternatively, they would attract men, mainly bachelors, and tickle them to death.
Specifics pertaining to rusalka differed within regions. Although in most tales they lived without men, in Ukraine they were often linked with water, while in Belarus they were linked with the forest and field. Where land was fertile, the maidens appeared naked and beautiful. In harsher areas of Great Russia, they appeared as "large breasted amazons" (Hubbs). And often, in the north, they were ugly and covered in hair.

Rusalka Week
The rusalki were believed to be at their most dangerous during the Rusalka Week (Rusal'naia) in early June. At this time, they were supposed to have left their watery depths in order to swing on branches of birch and willow trees by nights. Swimming during this week was strictly forbidden, lest mermaids would drag a swimmer down to the river floor. A common feature of the celebration of Rusal'naia week was the ritual banishing or burial of the rusalka at the end of the week, which remained as entertainment in Russia until the 1930s.
Max Vasmer notes that the very word rusalka originally referred to the dances of girls at Whitsuntide. The word is derived through Greek ???????? from "rosalia", the Latin term for Whitsuntide week (originally it meant "the festival of roses").

In Fiction
A rusalka makes an appearance in the adventure game Quest For Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness, and is the spirit of a murdered, unmarried woman. She is confined to the lake where she died, and will drown the hero unless he befriends her.
In the videogame Devil May Cry 4, the protagonist Nero is approached by two glowing blue, beautiful women who attempt to seduce him and lower his guard. The are actually attached the ends of antennae on the demon Bael, who upon being defeated, relinquishes an item called the Rusalka Corpse. Perhaps as a nod to their tradition of dwelling in water, they have a gelatinous quality to their bodies and make slippery, watery sounds when attacked and during the related cutscenes.