Lax parents blamed for 'attention deficit' behaviour

Matthew Kirkcaldie Matthew.Kirkcaldie at
Wed Jul 30 19:54:07 EST 2003

In article <3f284dfc at>, "John H." <john at> 

> My understanding of saccades is those micro second scanning movements of the
> eye. When we consciously direct our gaze somewhere that only indirectly
> affects saccading, we are not consciously controlling this scanning, it is
> mediated mostly via the superior collicus I think.

Your understanding is correct - my point was simply that all of our 
voluntary movements involve control systems of which we are not 
conscious.  We might form the intention to "look over there" and a 
saccade will be directed to that spot, and equally we might think "reach 
over there" and a series of ballistic and corrective movements will be 
made by several systems wholly ignored by our conscious mind.  In this 
sense, a saccade is a voluntary movement like any other, in that it 
involves conscious direction but the details of movement are not known 
to us.  You CAN stop your eyes from saccading by fixating on a 
particular spot or closing your eyes.  

I agree that some measurable qualities of the saccades themselves depend 
on the intrinsic functional connectivity of the CNS, but where we might 
differ is that I don't believe that alterations to these qualities 
requires a genetic or pathological explanation, and hence isn't 
sufficient evidence for an "organic brain disorder," whatever we take 
that to mean.  These sorts of assumptions are poisoning the study of the 
brain by leading to the sorts of gross "receptor equals behaviour" 
fallacies which are increasingly permeating clinical psychiatry.  They 
sound grand but are of no additional explicatory value, and the 
arguments generally collapse into "we think this is responsible because 
we saw a marginal correlation" or "I use this drug and wish to justify 
its use by criteria other than clinical judgement." 

As for the "organic disorder and behavioural therapy" opinion, whereas I 
don't think most such disorders can be meaningfully distinguished as 
organic or non-organic, I am in complete agreement that a behavioural 
strategy is the most appropriate way to tackle behavioural problems, 
especially those with such an elastic definition as ADHD.  Introducing a 
drug to the situation is making an adjustment to a system whose simplest 
functions are not really understood at all - rather like trying to fix a 
computer by varying the output voltage of the power supply.

>Whatever method, the goal must be to get them
> off the drugs. It may not always be possible but you do your best.

I think your points are well made, and although we disagree on some of 
the semantics, your conclusion seems very worthwhile!  And I think this 
is where we came in ...



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