Journal of Cognitive Science 11:215-246 (2010)

Justin Garson
Hunter College (CUNY)
Scientists, philosophers, and even the lay public commonly accept that schizophrenia stems from a biological or internal ‘dysfunction.’ However, this assessment is typically accompanied neither by well-defined criteria for determining that something is dysfunctional nor empirical evidence that schizophrenia satisfies those criteria. In the following, a concept of biological function is developed and applied to a neurobiological model of schizophrenia. It concludes that current evidence does not warrant the claim that schizophrenia stems from a biological dysfunction, and, in fact, that unusual neural structures associated with schizophrenia may have functional or adaptive significance. The fact that current evidence is ambivalent between these two possibilities (dysfunction versus adaptive function) implies that schizophrenia researchers should be much more cautious in using the ‘dysfunction’ label than they currently are. This has implications for both psychiatric treatment as well as public perception of mental disorders.
Keywords Mental disorder  mental illness  function  dysfunction  schizophrenia  natural selection  neural selection  philosophy of psychiatry
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