Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Community News Network

January 9, 2013

Slate: What's up with 'crazy eyes'?

For the first time, police officers on Monday gave a public moment-by-moment account of accused Aurora shooter James Holmes' arrest, as part of a hearing that touched on whether Holmes is mentally fit to stand trial. Officer Jason Oviatt described Holmes as "very relaxed" after the shooting, noting that Holmes had extremely dilated pupils. Are dilated pupils a sign of mental illness?

Not a good one. Dilation of the pupils can reflect not just the lighting conditions in a room but the thoughts and feelings of a person, mentally ill or not. For example, dilated pupils can indicate sexual arousal. Psychologists sometimes study the expansion and contraction of the pupils to find an objective measure of the mind's inner processes, in something called pupillometry. This practice has been used to study everything from racial bias to sexual preference to what happens when the mind puzzles over a difficult math problem.

However, while pupillometry has been used to study aspects of mental illness, including schizophrenia, and while psychologists began observing pupil dilation among the mentally ill more than 100 years ago, pupil dilation on its own is not a good indicator of psychosis or other mental illness. Pupil dilation is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the body that controls our fight-or-flight response. So even when psychosis causes changes in pupil dilation, such as by triggering an excited state of fear or anger, the dilation itself is identical to dilation in the non-mentally ill. Moreover, just as with sane people, the pupils return to normal once the state is over.

Dilation of the pupils can also be a side effect of using certain drugs. For example, LSD and mescaline both cause pupil dilation. Some people who suffer from mental illness may find themselves with dilated pupils caused by treatment with prescribed antipsychotic medications.

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  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

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