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The complexity of the modern world and IQ


Classifying and coping with mental illness
James Watson Scientist
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In the United States, all mentally ill people were called schizophrenic, whereas in the UK half were called bipolar. Now - so upon, you know, initial hospitalization for being ill for a sort of psychotic thing, you can't decide whether it's bipolar or schizophrenia by use of - insulin has no effect on schizophrenia. So - and when - and people who have schizophrenia are cognitively impaired generally. Their IQ is significantly lower than they would be if they didn't have the disease, and that often reflect a much impaired working memory. And so our son does not, at least now - never psychotic, but he has, he works with a diminished working memory, which leads to really an inability to plan for the next day or - he's just not future-oriented in the way you or I would be. And for many people whose intelligence is, say, at the lower end of the IQ, the changes which come from having schizophrenia would almost move you into the mentally retarded category. So schizophrenic people on the whole have to be cared for all their lives. And you know, when medicines came, there was a great rush to empty the hospitals and that you could have community centres and it may be cheaper for the governments to do this, but it's not clear that putting people in halfway houses, giving them money to have a slightly independent life is probably not as good as if, you know, they were with their families. But most family just don't have the resources, you know, with both parents working and so on, how do you handle it? So I think it's going to be - always remain an enormous burden on society until we find ways to cure the disease or to partially cure it. So that's, you know, I think if you had a sort of rational congressional hearing, that would be the starting point of discussion, that, you know, living with mental illness is more than the average family can handle today and we don't have the big snake pit hospitals anymore. So what's to be done? I'm sure many of the sort of shiftless, disorganized people that Mrs Thatcher would just have described as slackers - well, mentally ill. So you just - and it's a real problem for society is who cares for the people who can't care for themselves? And this may get worse as society gets more complicated and the skills needed to live in a city are, you know, you virtually couldn't exist unless you have a credit card. Well, what if you lose it all the time or- ? And I worry now that what seems to be an awful trend in the United States may be coming here too, that sort of lower middle class people seeing their standard of living diminish as sort of low skilled jobs increasingly disappear. And so people are - and I think there's just no doubt that we demand more. The effort level of where you have trained intelligent people, even the brightest may not be competent at handling all the information that they're thrust with.

American molecular biologist James Dewey Watson is probably best known for discovering the structure of DNA for which he was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. His long career has seen him teaching at Harvard and Caltech, and taking over the directorship of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. From 1988 to 1992, James Watson was head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health. His current research focuses on the study of cancer.

Listeners: Walter Gratzer Martin Raff

Walter Gratzer is Emeritus Professor of Biophysical Chemistry at King's College London, and was for most of his research career a member of the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council. He is the author of several books on popular science. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard and has known Jim Watson since that time

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 5 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2008 and October 2009

Date story went live: 18 June 2010