Lady Gaga on Trauma

“What I have seen on the news with this debate of Kavanaugh versus Dr. Ford, it’s one of the most upsetting things I have ever witnessed.”

Lady Gaga the Neuroscientist schools us on common symptoms observed in many sexual assault survivors: avoidance and hyperarousal.


The Science of Baths

Lady Gaga in the bath

Bet you didn’t know that the benefits of baths have been scientifically proven!  I didn’t either, until the Los Angeles Times ran this article the other day:

Soak your cares away — it’s terrific and scientific

Bathing can be a balm to modern-day stress, researchers say, with the addition of essential oils increasing the benefits.

In this hyper-fast, crazy-overscheduled, stress-inducing, 24/7 plugged-in reality, baths seem indulgent, even quaint, conjuring images of 19th century paintings of women with their hair swirled high atop their heads in old-timey tubs pouring pails of heated water about them.

But a bath may be just what the doctor ordered.

. . .

“Thirty minutes, or whatever it’s going to be, of relaxation can profoundly affect how you’re going to deal with the rest of your day,” says Dr. Michael R. Irwin, director of UCLA’s Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Mindful Awareness Research Center. More research is needed to understand exactly what an aromatherapy bath might accomplish, he says, but there are benefits to stillness in the moment.

“When you become present in the moment, a profound relaxation occurs. It actually resets your physiology, regulates some stress hormones, helps with concentration and reduces tension,” says Irwin, who is part of a collaborative group researching integrative medicine drawing from East/West approaches.

Although Dr. Irwin has around 150 peer-reviewed publications, I couldn’t find a single one about baths or aromatherapy.

But bath therapy, or spa therapy, has a formal name (balneotherapy), along with many entries in PubMed. This usage seems to mostly refer to treatments for skin and joint ailments. One “systematic” review (“All articles cited in MEDLINE under the query, ‘Dead Sea,’ were reviewed”) claimed:

Dead Sea treatments are beneficial in several rheumatologic diseases and psoriasis and have a good safety profile.

A Cochrane Review of randomized controlled trials of balneotherapy for osteoarthritis found:

…silver level evidence concerning the beneficial effects of mineral baths compared to no treatment. Of all other balneological treatments no clear effects were found. However, the scientific evidence is weak because of the poor methodological quality and the absence of an adequate statistical analysis and data presentation.

Hydrotherapy in other contexts, of course, has a lengthy history (Porter 1990):

In Homeric times, baths were used primarily to cleanse and refresh. By the time of Hippocrates, however, baths had acquired both general and specific healthful and healing properties. The bodily humors could be heated, cooled, moistened, or dried by a combination of hot and cold baths; thermal baths soothed chest and back pains in pneumonia, and promoted the secretion of urine; cold douches relieved swellings and painful joints…

Not all of that history is pretty (especially in psychiatry) — see Death by Prolonged Shower-Bath. The baths were administered punitively and not merely as part of standard treatment.

Porter (1990) also notes the decline and fall of the spa and water cure — viewed as quackery in mainstream medicine and too tame in alternative medicine:

Few regular physicians these days make much of hydrotherapies; water cures and hydros are equally conspicuous by their relative absence from the armoury of contemporary fringe medicine and alternative medical philosophies; and, not least, the culture of the spa-resort…has fossilized into a facet of “heritage” . . . …in general it seems as if today’s regular medicine and its devotees seek therapeutic agents and regimes more potent than water, and followers of the fringe look to more exotic or occult manifestations of the curative powers of Nature.

But baths must be in, if they’re covered in the LA Times, right? And there’s SO much science to back up this lifestyle puff piece. So Porter is way behind the times…


Photo: Lady Gaga’s Bath Tub Photo Shoot with Terry Richardson

Lady Gaga and Porn Studies


I haven’t written about Lady Gaga in a while. This entire Posterous blog started out as a joke, and then it turned into a place where I’d post some pieces that didn’t quite fit into the main blog, and others where I could upload huge videos that Blogger wouldn’t host. Then Posterous went under and I transferred the content to WordPress, where it seems like a serious blog.

Hence, it was time for a name change from The Neurocritic on Lady Gaga and… [whatever I was writing about that day]. But I thought one last Gaga post was in order after reading about the start of a new journal to be published by Routledge — Porn Studies:

Porn Studies is the first dedicated, international, peer-reviewed journal to critically explore those cultural products and services designated as pornographic and their cultural, economic, historical, institutional, legal and social contexts. Porn Studies will publish innovative work examining specifically sexual and explicit media forms, their connections to wider media landscapes and their links to the broader spheres of (sex) work across historical periods and national contexts.

The ‘Gaga in a meat grinder’ imagery is clearly a reference to the infamous Hustler meat grinder cover from 1978:

In 1970 [sic], women would no longer be treated like meat. On the cover of Hustler magazine or at the Born This Way Ball, meat is precisely how we treat them.

Hustler meat grinder cover

There was also an association with the relentless focus on body image. The fact that Lady Gaga had gained 25-30 pounds was not lost on the media (to the tune of 30,000,000 hits!). The most offensive headline comes up quite high in the search and doesn’t deserve a link: ‘Lady Gaga Looks Obese in a Bikini; Gains 30 Pounds [PHOTOS]’.

To her immense credit, Gaga started her Body Revolution campaign, where she acknowledged struggling with anorexia and bulimia since the age of 15 and called for compassion. Her revelations, and level of comfort with her body, resonated with fans.

Lady Gaga Body Revolution

Now you can submit your own analysis of Lady Gaga’s use of Hustler meat grinder imagery to a new academic journal. Call for Papers (PDF):

The editors, Feona Attwood (Middlesex University) and Clarissa Smith (University of Sunderland), and Routledge are pleased to announce the launch of a new journal devoted to the study of pornography.
. . .
Porn Studies invites submissions for publication, commencing with its first issue in Spring 2014. Articles should be between 5000 and 8000 words. Forum submissions should be 500-1500 words. Book reviews should be between 800 and 1500 words. Submissions will be refereed anonymously by at least two referees.

Link to Porn Studies announcement via @mocost.

lady gaga in meat grinder

Epilepsy as Entertainment, from the epileptic singers of belle époque Paris to Lady Gaga

Any history of epilepsy, hysteria, and dancing plagues must include…

The epileptic singers of belle époque Paris (Baxendale & Marshall, 2012):

In late 19th century Paris, people with epilepsy were treated alongside those with hysteria in the now famous Salpêtrière Hospital, where both conditions were deemed to have a neurological basis. When Jean Martin Charcot became chief physician at the Salpêtrière Hospital in 1862, he described himself ‘in possession of a kind of museum of living pathology whose holdings were virtually inexhaustible’. He opened the doors of his ‘living museum’ and exhibited his prize specimens to all of Paris. By putting his patients on display, Charcot introduced a vogue for pathology that permeated well beyond the world of medical enquiry and into the public psyche and vernacular. Not only did Charcot’s demonstrations provide the inspiration for high culture in the form of operas, plays and novels, they also provided the inspiration for the ‘gommeuses epileptiques’ (epileptic singers), who entertained the masses at the café concerts. This paper explores the foundations of our current medical approaches to mental illness and epilepsy, with a particular focus on the boundaries that emerged between hysteria and epilepsy in 19th century Paris. These clinical boundaries were both shaped by and reflected in the popular entertainments in the city.


As modern-day examples, the authors offered Madonna’s Frozen  and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance:

The angular ‘experimental’ dance moves in parts of Madonna’s ‘Frozen’ video (1998) strongly resemble the automatisms seen in many temporal lobe seizures. The same could be said for Lady Gaga’s trademark ‘claw’, prominent in her ‘Bad Romance’ video (2009), and waved back at her en masse by her fans at her stadium shows. It is identical with some of the dystonic posturing seen in generalised seizures.

Others in the genre include Epilepsy is Dancing by Anthony & the Johnsons (2009), and the Black Eyed Peas’ Let’s Get Retarded (2003): ‘Let’s get ill, that’s the deal…Lose your mind this is the time…bang your spine…bob your head like epilepsy…Get messy, loud and sick’ .

However, the authors neglected to mention anything by Ian Curtis and Joy Division, including She’s Lost Control and The Atrocity Exhibition. As we all know, Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy and depression, tragically hanged himself at the age of 23. He was known for his unique dance style reminiscent of a seizure, which he occasionally did experience on stage. This was famously depicted in the biopic Control. A clip from the film, entitled Ian Curtis epilepsy dance, is available on YouTube. But you should really watch this jaw-dropping live performance of Dead Souls by the late Ian Curtis.



Baxendale S, Marshall F. (2012). The epileptic singers of belle epoque Paris. Med Humanit. May 21. [Epub ahead of print].


Atrocity Exhibition
   ——Joy Division

Asylums with doors open wide
Where people had paid to see inside
For entertainment they watch his body twist
Behind his eyes he says, ‘I still exist.’

This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside…


Berkman Center at Harvard, MacArthur Foundation, and Lady Gaga Present…


Born This Way FoundationA movement to empower youth 

Social media researcher danah boyd notes that the foundation is guided by research:

Alongside John Palfrey, I am proud to be a Research Fellow on this project. For the last few months, John Palfrey and I have helped coordinate researchers and synthesize research in order to help inform the foundation. As part of our efforts to advise the Foundation, John and I created a working paper series where we work with scholars to synthesize research and provide grounded advice. We’ve been putting together all sorts of research material in order to help the Foundation and the public make sense of the amazing work that scholars have been doing for years. The first five documents that we prepared are now publicly available:


The Journal of Lady Gaga Studies

Gaga Stigmata


 Established in March 2010 as the first mover in Gaga studies, Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga is a technological journal that critically-creatively participates in the cultural project of shock pop phenomenon Lady Gaga. Keeping with the spirit of our zeitgeist, Gaga Stigmata moves at the speed of pop.


Here’s a sample essay that takes a psychoanalytic approach to the Marry the Night video:

The Warrior Queen: Marry The Night, Trauma, Regression, and Recovery

By K.M. Zwick

. . .

Sigmund Freud posited that sex (creation/joining) and violence (destruction/separation) are attractive to the most primal and perhaps truest internal aspects of all of us. He called us “polymorphously perverse,” which means that what we really want is often considered “perverted,” linking sex, fetishes, violence, comfort, nurturance, joy, and death together in so many different ways and, ahem, positions, that our unconscious is basically a clusterfuck of perversion, desire, and fantasy. Modern-day analysts might suggest there is no such thing as perversion, per se, in terms of what is desired within the mind, because perversion is so ubiquitous. Additionally, what is consensually enacted between two (or more) individuals might not be considered perverse as much as it would be considered honest – an honest engagement with what is often a combination of sex and death. Simultaneous creation and destruction. Our libidinal instincts intertwined with our aggressive ones can create powerful wishes, fantasies, fetishes, and proclivities that are not only intensely sexual but are also intensely mortal; that is, destructive. It is, perhaps, the constant repression of our deepest fantasies that leads to neurosis; it is, perhaps, the denial of the interplay between sex and death – pleasure and aggression – that results in anxious and escapist symptoms in so many. Telling ourselves that sexual and aggressive fantasies are “bad” or “wrong” is likely to lead to puritanical subversion of what is most basic, and therefore authentic, in us. Freud might have argued that we are not sick when we are in touch with our most primal instincts (in safe, consensual fashions) but rather that we are most sick when we deny their existence, relevance, and the pleasurable effect of such instincts.



It’s a Gaga Christmas!

So I’m ‘Stuck on Fuckin’ You’

Lady Gaga has ‘leaked’ a previously unreleased song via her Twitter page as a Christmas treat for her fans. The song, ‘Stuck On Fuckin’ You’ was recorded during her Born This Way sessions, and was, according to the singer, “recorded live, in one take, on the tour bus. Uncensored.”

The song, which you can listen to by scrolling to the bottom of this page, was written in Minnesota following her Monster Ball show. Running in over five minutes in length, you can hear one guitar, a drum machine, and Lady Gaga freestyling in the last minute of the song, before she cuts it off, laughing, saying “OK just stop it, I could go on forever“.

-from NME, December 25, 2011 9:15


Lady Gaga, Nick Bostrom, and the Future of Humanity

Lady Gaga – Born This Way (Audio) currently has 2,832,550 “listens” on YouTube since being posted yesterday. It’s reminiscent of Madonna’s Vogue from 1990 (watch video).

Just wait until Lady Gaga’s video for Born This Way is released…


Until then, let’s watch this lecture by Oxford University professor Nick Bostrom, part of the Hard Problems in Social Science symposium.


The Future of Humanity, in New Waves in Philosophy of Technology, eds. Jan-Kyrre Berg Olsen, Evan Selinger, & Soren Riis (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2009) [pdf]

But more importantly, what will Lady Gaga wear to the Grammys tomorrow? Such suspense!