Spider-Web Patterns

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In 1995, NASA’s Dr. David Noever and his fellow researchers at the Marshall Space Flight Center studied the webs spun by common house spiders (Araneus diadematus) dosed with several drugs, including LSD, marijuana, benzedrine, chloral hydrate and caffeine. The more toxic the drug, the less organized the web the spider created. The spider on marijuana drifted off before finishing the job. The spider on benzedrine, an upper, worked energetically but without much planning. The spider dosed with chloral hydrate, a sedative, soon fell asleep. To the surprise of Dr. Noever et al, caffeine did the most damage of all the substances tested. The spider dosed with it proved incapable of creating even a single organized cell, and its web showed no sign of the “hub and spokes” pattern fundamental to conventional web design. What does the web of a caffeinated spider (which can hardly be accustomed to the jolt of a morning latte) have to do with human behavior? Unlikely as it sounds, it may be the most vivid illustration of caffeine’s disorienting effect on caffeine-sensitive people, many of whom may be misdiagnosed as mentally ill:

“Caffeine-induced psychosis, whether it be delirium, manic depression, schizophrenia, or merely an anxiety syndrome, in most cases will be hard to differentiate from other organic or non-organic psychoses….The treatment for caffeine-induced psychosis is to withhold further caffeine.”




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