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Science
RITUAL
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A fascinating look at the link between human and animal rituals.

Tuesday 11 February 2003, 9.00-9.30pm

Do we perform the most beautiful and evocative ceremonies because of the activity in our brains based in our basal ganglia? This is the claim of some neuroscientists who claim that the desire to perform ritual is a primitive instinct that can be found throughout the natural world.

Church Service

Dr Gillian Rice looks at human and animal rituals and tries to un-pick the evidence that says we are just obeying a desire to reduce stress and communicate effectively.

But what happens when ritualised behaviour goes wrong? Gillian looks at what happens to our brains when the actions that should produce calm, meditative thoughts produce an agonising mental illness that destroys people's lives, trapping them in endless ritual actions. OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder affects up to 3% of the population. People who have this have to repeat actions many times a day, usually washing. We hear from a lady who became a recluse for 10 years, fearing to leave the house for fear of contamination. If she did she had to wash and scrub herself until she literally got down to the last layer of skin.

This programme will shed new light on ritual behaviour. It is a fascinating and intriguing look at the relationship between human and animal ritual and the fine boundary between normal behaviour and severe illness.

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