Brain scans BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Can Trump Prove His Sanity?

Given a lack of definitive and objective psychiatric tests, questions about Donald Trump’s mental health may never go away. And a famous experiment from the 1970s suggests that even if he stops ranting on Twitter or speaking in convoluted and incoherent sentences, at best he will be viewed as being in remission.

LONDON – Since Donald Trump took over the United States presidency a year ago, doubts over his mental stability and his very sanity have been mounting. With the release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which claims to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the president’s dysfunctional administration, those doubts seem to have taken on a new salience and urgency. But, beyond claiming on Twitter that he is a “very stable genius,” what could Trump actually do to prove that he is psychologically fit for what, by some definitions, is the world’s highest office?

There is no clear physical test for mental illness. Even if Trump were subjected to a battery of blood tests and brain scans, the results would most likely prove nothing. The vast majority of people with psychosis would have normal results. Likewise, an abnormal test wouldn’t necessarily imply impaired mental capacity: a person can retain their intelligence, even after losing a significant amount of their brain.

For example, a recent study showed that all but four of 54 children who underwent a hemispherectomy, in which half the brain is removed to treat severe and intractable epilepsy, showed the same or even improved intellectual capacity. So Trump could literally have half a brain, and it still wouldn’t prove that he was mentally ill.

To continue reading, register now.

Subscribe now for unlimited access to everything PS has to offer.


As a registered user, you can enjoy more PS content every month – for free.