Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Genes and Machiavelli

A controversial new theory from biologist Bernard Crespi and sociologist Christopher Badcock suggests psychiatric imbalances result from a genetic turf war. In this theory, paternal and maternal genes compete for control of the developing brain, with psychiatric problems resulting from either side winning too much - impersonal, autistic spectrum problems from the father and overly personal, mood/psychosis spectrum problems (from depression to schizophrenia) from the mother. Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome, disparate disorders originating from changes in either the maternal or paternal portion of chromosome 15, are provided as support for the theory. The Times article reflects appropriate skepticism regarding universal answers to complex problems. The theory seems, at least, an intriguing piece to, or perhaps way of looking at, the puzzle of mental illness.