Vail Symposium: Exploring the madness within us | VailDaily.com

Vail Symposium: Exploring the madness within us

Evan Fairmont
Daily correspondent
Vail CO Colorado

Special to the Daily

VAIL – Schizophrenia is a devastating, yet mysterious mental illness. Its victims imagine voices in their heads and are tormented by delusions that encompass both divine and evil influences over their lives. Thursday night, the Vail Symposium presents its final program of the Brain Series with Dr. Robert Freedman, who will discuss the illness. Freedman, the chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and scientific director of the Institute for Children’s Mental Disorders, will present findings from his latest book, “The Madness Within Us: Schizophrenia as a Neuronal Process” at the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail Village at 5:30 p.m. tonight.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Robert Freedman concluding our month-long Brain Series,” said Liana Moore, Vail Symposium interim executive director. “This series has explored the impact of psychosis on creativity and recovery from brain injury and Dr. Freedman will wrap it up by delving deeper into a specific form of psychosis.”

Freedman will introduce the illness by showing examples from the lives of affected persons. He will discuss the history of the concept of schizophrenia from biblical times and summarize recent research on its genetic origins and its effects on the brain. He will also explore current advances in the treatment and prevention of this illness.

In his book, Freedman discusses his family history with schizophrenia and looks to his experience with his patients and their friends and family as they struggle with the disease. The book provides a “very human sense of what it means to experience and bear witness to psychosis,” said one review on somatosphere.net, an online blog about science, medicine and anthropology.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1.1 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.” Symptoms of this disease can include, “hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, movement disorders, flat affect, social withdrawal and cognitive deficits.”

“Every human, develops stories in their minds to deal with their everyday experiences, but people with schizophrenia tend to have paranoid narratives that only confirm the fears and sense of worthlessness,” Freedman said.

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Aside from his work at the University of Colorado, Freedman is also the current editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry. He has many published works on schizophrenia and other mental disorders. He is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.

The Vail Symposium is a grassroots, non-profit organization that has been an integral part of the life and history of Vail since 1971. The Symposium’s mission is to provide educational programs for the Vail Valley community that are thought-provoking, diverse and affordable. For more information, visit http://www.vailsymposium.org or call 970-476-0954.

Evan Fairmont is the Vail Symposium program coordinator. E-mail comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.