Sunday, July 03, 2016

Inferences about the biology of schizophrenia

A seminar on schizophrenia in The Lancet says the syndrome "seems to originate from disruption of brain development caused by genetic or environmental factors, or both". Note the use of the word 'seems'. The article is not saying that schizophrenia does originate from disruption of brain development. In fact, as the sentence stands, it's not absolutely clear that the article is saying any more than the tautologous statement that mental illness is due to the brain. Of course it is. And so is our "normal" behaviour.

More specifically, the article makes out that "advances in genomics, epidemiology, and neuroscience have led to great progress in understanding the disorder". The problem is that it does not make any firm inferences about the biology of schizophrenia. The studies it discusses are plagued by so many inconsistencies and confounders that more caution needs to be made about drawing any conclusions about biological abnormalities in schizophrenia. The findings may well be artefacts or of dubious value as far as establishing the aetiology of schizophrenia. The article is misinforming people in this respect.

The authors imply there is less controversy about the issue of the biological origins of schizophrenia now because of these studies over recent years. They do need to recognise the critical challenge to their position.

1 comment:

cobweb said...

There is a massive research establishment at Cardiff and the Vale where they have been searching for the genes for schizophrenia for decades. What service users need are properly funded humane services. Cardiff is notorious for it's use of ECT as highlighted by a programme of Radio Wales recently. A lady who suffered 'post partum psychosis' was given 10 treatments. She thought it helped.....what would have helped was access to a mother and baby unit..there is not one in the whole of Wales. Mike Owen claimed that 'things have improved' Really? He seemed to be more concerned not to upset the Welsh government than speak honestly about the state of services in Wales.That lady and her partner found the experience of admission to a psychiatric hospital in Wales distressing and she ended up having ECT-after a Skype consultation with 'the team'. It is also the case that there are no services for youngsters, including those who self harm or have eating problems.they get shunted all over the country. Mike Owen had a chance to speak out but careers come first funding is needed.. The producers included only male psychiatrists - maybe if they had bothered to find some women who were prepared to say how it is the programme might have had some effect - as it is it probably put women off contacting mental health services. Mike Owen seemed a nice enough person but shame on all those who do not speak up without weasel words. As for it's ok to use bio/social/neuro blah blah - the majority of people in Wales are given drugs - including those who contribute their genetic information to Mike Owen and colleagues. At a Bowlby conference by the way there was a spat between Oliver James and others - he claimed the search for genes as an explanation for mental health problems is tosh whilst others defended the approach. The Bowlby theory of Attachment is fast becoming a cult..but they have nowhere near the funds that go into genetic research in Cardiff and Oxford. Who benefits from the mess of competing theories? .certainly not service users.