Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Mind-twist or brain-spot hypothesis of mental illness

I have always taken the view that modern psychiatry has been split between two conceptual understandings of mental illness. At the Triennial Medical Congress at Washington in 1910, Ernest Southard called these "two great groups of friendly opponents in the field of psychiatric theory" the 'mind twist men' and the 'brain spot men'.(1) He thought it was important to distinguish between those that looked for a psychogenic cause of mental illness and those that emphasised brain aetiology.

Southard was more of a brain-spot man himself. The main mind-twist man at the time in US psychiatry was Adolf Meyer. I have several times pointed out the link between the theory of Adolf Meyer and critical psychiatry (eg. see previous post).

I think modern psychiatry needs to make more of the differentiation that Southard described. The way was lost when psychiatry thought there was a "twisted molecule behind every twisted thought", which is clearly wrong.

(1) Southard, E.E. (1914) The Mind Twist and the Brain Spot Hypotheses in Psychopathology and NeuropathologyPsychological Bulletin 11: 117-130

1 comment:

Eric Setz said...

So pithy, so true.