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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: May 2010

13 - Editor's introduction: Upward toward phenomenology, downward toward physiology

Summary

Thought disorder is a defining attribute of schizophrenia – but just what is it that is wrong with schizophrenic thinking? The question requires an answer that goes beyond a set of diagnostic rules, such as those that appear in DSM-IV. Characterizations like these “lead nowhere theoretically,” as Roger Brown suggests, because they are not embedded in a rigorous conceptual system. Of course, the expectation that a characterization can lead somewhere theoretically remains a hope; a scrambling of neocortical wiring, even a scrambling caused by a single gene, would not necessarily be sufficiently coherent in its manifestations that the road could be followed backward from symptoms to the underlying process. Yet the very “strangeness” of schizophrenic thinking has led generations of investigators to suspect that the phenomenology of schizophrenic thinking, perspicaciously interpreted, will be a clue to the underlying process; in other words, that something is wrong with schizophrenic thinking, and we need to find out what that something is. The authors gathered here (and the editor) share that belief.

The richness of Loren and Jean Chapman's account of disordered thinking and perception in psychosis-prone individuals shows how hard it will be to render a convincing account of thought disorder in terms of any more fundamental process.