The Development Of Psychopathology Nature and Nature PDF
1.92 MB PDF
This book is about a new paradigm for understanding human behavior, one that is based on the emerging field of developmental cognitive neuroscience. It explains and then applies this new paradigm to some of the more difficult questions about the human condition: where do mental illnesses come from, how do they develop, why are they so common, how can they be treated, and how might they eventually be prevented? Although some mental illnesses have been recognized since ancient times, scientifically adequate explanations of mental illness have only begun to emerge in the last few decades. For most of history, our explanations of this large source of human misery have been woefully thin. The very real suffering has been denied, or when it cannot be denied, it has been explained by supernatural forces, folk psychology, or cleverly disguised tautologies. Now real scientific explanations are beginning to emerge as a result of hard empirical work at many levels of analysis. This book describes what a scientifically adequate explanation of psychopathology will look like and how close we are to such an explanation for different psychopathologies.
The key ideas in this new paradigm for understanding psychopathology can be expressed fairly simply. Human behavior emerges from embedded and interacting complex systems that include the genome and its expression in epigenesis and development, the brain, interacting psychological functions, and the individual in his or her social and cultural contexts. As a result of these interacting complex systems, behavior is richly pluripotential, allowing humans to adapt quickly to changing contexts. Psychopathology represents a deviation from this adaptive range such that behavior is restricted to a narrower range of options. To understand psychopathology, a framework is needed that incorporates all these complex systems, each of which defines a level of analysis.
Some basic principles emerge from this paradigm. We cannot reduce psychopathology simply to genes, early environmental experiences, neural synapses and networks, psychological processes, or social contexts. Instead, we need all these levels of analysis to understand the development of psychopathology for the following reasons: First, it is likely that most, if not all, psychopathologies are caused by an interaction of genetic and environmental risk factors, some of which are social in nature. All psychopathologies are brain disorders in that all behavior is mediated by the brain, but to understand how a change in brain structure or function affects behavior, we need other levels of analysis, in particular a neurocomputational analysis of how interactions among neurons generate behavior. Virtually all psychopathologies are developmental and must be understood in the context of developmental theory. Because all psychopathologies represent deviations from normal human functions, an explanation of any psychopathology requires a specification of which neuropsychological processes are disrupted. All psychopathologies emerge in a social and cultural context, which can modify their definition, initiation, persistence, and course.
This book is organized into three main sections: fundamental issues, methods of syndrome analysis, and reviews of specific disorders. Chapter 1 considers topics that are basic to the study of psychopathology, including the need for an integrated approach, issues in the use and validation of diagnoses, and fallacies that can impede our understanding. Chapter 2 reviews the methods of syndrome analysis that are needed to achieve an integrated neuroscientific understanding of the development of a psychopathology. These methods come from the fields of epidemiology, behavioral and molecular genetics, neurobiology, and psychology. Chapters 3–5 review what we have learned from these methods—about disorders of motivation, disorders of action regulation, and disorders of language and cognitive development—and what we still need to learn. Chapter 6 discusses the main conclusions about our current knowledge of the development of psychopathology, including implications for prevention and treatment, as well as implications for future research.
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