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Arizona State bioethicist says mental illness is subject to biological and sociocultural factors
Date:2/16/2008

BOSTON Biology is crucial to understanding psychosis, but there is more to psychosis than mere biology, says Jason Robert, an Arizona State University bioethicist and philosopher of science.

Psychiatrists in particular appear to be grappling with the complexity of classification and diagnosis, Robert explains. But I am always worried that the prime material of the psychiatrist often ill, unhappy people who behave in bizarre ways will be ignored in favor of DNA tests results or brain images, with almost certainly negative impacts on patient well-being.

Robert, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at ASUs College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will bring conceptual research and perspective to the subject of cross-cultural issues in defining mental illness during a presentation on Feb. 16 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

My claim is that gene maps and brain scans will likely not be able to offer universal, culture-free representations of the essence of mental illness. That is, mental illness is subject to biological and socio-cultural factors, such that isolating any of these as core elements will almost always miss the mark at the expense of patient care, he says.

Robert will dissect the notion that personalized medicine is the wave of the future. In many peoples minds, personalized medicine means medicine tailored to an individuals genetic makeup. We have heard over and over again that genetics and neuroscience will revolutionize medicine, and these claims come with elaborate predictions about new taxonomies of disease, new diagnostic tools, and fabulous new treatments.

None of these predictions have borne out, in part because they fail to grapple with the complexity of human beings as brains, bodies, and, embedded in culture, steeped in history, and dynamically creating their own words, he says.

"If we're really going to have personalized medicine
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Contact: Carol Hughes
carol.hughes@asu.edu
480-965-6375
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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