4 If natural kind schizophrenia is conceived in terms of adisorder of the

4 if natural kind schizophrenia is conceived in terms

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4. If ‘natural kind schizophrenia’ is conceived in terms of a disorder of the evolved social brain in humans, it is legitimate to re-define it as a costly by-product or consequence of social brain evolution (Burns 2006; 2007.) In other words, it exists and persists in our species because it is inextricably tied to the evolutionary process that gave rise to our social nature. Furthermore, if we assert that the multiple genes responsible for conferring vulnerability to schizophrenia are also responsible for the evolution and healthy functioning of the social brain, then 17
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we have no need to invoke problematic molecular models such as balanced polymorphism in resolving the schizophrenia paradox. Finally, the key to reconciling the ‘new epidemiology’ of schizophrenia (variable prevalence and incidence) with an evolutionary genetic basis for the disorder is this: A spectrum of genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia exists in the population by virtue of the fact that these are ‘normal genes’ responsible for neurodevelopment; Complex bidirectional gene- environment interactions operate throughout neurodevelopment to mediate expression of genetic vulnerability; Thus, a harmful social environment leads to increased expression of susceptibility genes – accounting for the epidemiological variability demonstrated in relation to factors such as urbanicity, migrant status and socioeconomic disparity (Burns 2009.) In conclusion therefore, the development of a philosophy of mind that reflects the embodied social nature of human consciousness and experience, allows us to move away from an individualistic model of schizophrenia and towards a phenomenology of social alienation that coincides with evidence for this being a social brain disorder. This helps us define a ‘natural kind schizophrenia’ that is amenable to both empirical and evolutionary analysis. Evidence supporting the key place of sociality in the evolution of our species leads us to the realisation that the existence of schizophrenia – a socially devastating clinical phenomenon – is inextricably linked to this social brain evolution. Importantly, the evolved genetic make- up that defines the unique social cognitive abilities of modern Homo sapiens , also carries with it an inherent genetic vulnerability to harmful features of the social environment. Schizophrenia therefore, is not just a costly by-product of social brain evolution in 18
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modern humans, but is also a consequence of the unhealthy societies we create around us. 19
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References Adolphs, R. (1999) Social cognition and the human brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences , 3: 469-79. Adolphs, R. (2001) The neurobiology of social cognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology , 11: 231-39. Adriaens, P.R. (2008) Debunking evolutionary psychiatry’s schizophrenia paradox. Medical Hypotheses, 70 (6): 1215-1222. Agartz, I., Andersson, J.L. and Skare, S. (2001) Abnormal brain white matter in schizophrenia: a diffusion tensor imaging study.
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