Laurel Braitman studies the phenomena of mental illness in nonhuman animals. She believes that the shared experiences of certain mental disorders and emotional states--from the diagnosis of trichotillomania (or compulsive hair-plucking) in gorillas to separation anxiety in dogs to depression in cetaceans--calls for a new understanding of species relatedness. Her research, which is primarily historical and anthropological in nature, probes the socio-historical circumstances that have made identifying mental disorders in humans and other animals possible. Laurel has worked as a biologist and environmental conservation professional and her interests include not only the shifting relationships between humans and other creatures, but also how understandings of evolutionary relationships and species distinctions change our ideas of ourselves. She received her B.A. in Biology and Writing from Cornell University. Laurel's book on her research, ANIMAL MADNESS, is forthcoming with Simon and Schuster.
For more on Laurel's research visit http://animalmadness.com/.
environmental history; animals; Charles Darwin; natural history; mental health; ethics, anthropology of biology