The human mind also has tipping points

The human mind also has tipping points
The human mind also has tipping points

The mathematical theory that helped find tipping points and early warning signs of loss of resilience in lakes or forests also applies to the human mind. This is evident from new research led by ‘tipping points professor’ Marten Scheffer.

About fifteen years ago, aquatic ecologist Scheffer was the first to successfully link mathematical theories about critical shifts in complex systems to empirical evidence, namely the turbidity of freshwater lakes. The finding that these fundamental principles also apply to the human mind offers new starting points for the prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorders.

The core of Scheffer’s ‘tipping point research’ is the insight that complex systems can find themselves in different situations of equilibrium, and that these situations do not gradually merge into each other, but rather abruptly – via tipping points. These tipping points are preceded by so-called early warning signals.

These laws also apply to psychiatric disorders, this new research shows. Psychiatric disorders are fundamentally different from other illnesses: they can recur, with symptoms changing throughout a lifetime. This research offers new starting points for early recognition and treatment.

‘Our findings imply, among other things, that early warning signals exist. These could, for example, be picked up with smartwatches or smartphones, in order to make timely interventions to strengthen someone’s mental resilience,” Scheffer explains. Another important observation is that short interventions can sometimes be sufficient to get patients out of their illness for good.

Scheffer: ‘This is now accepted, hard science for ecosystems and the climate. It is new for psychiatry.’ The journal JAMA Psychiatry will publish two articles about it next week.

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The article is in Dutch

Tags: human mind tipping points


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