Schizophrenia: Medical Students Are Taught It's All in the Genes, But Are They Hearing the Whole Story?
It is common for medical textbooks that discuss the etiology of schizophrenia to focus on genetic factors. In this article we examine what Eric Kandel, a Nobel-Prize-winning psychiatrist, believes is the best data in support of the idea that schizophrenia has a significant genetic basis. Based on Kandel's popular textbook Principles of Neural Science, most students would conclude that the genetic theory of schizophrenia is not open to debate. However, the readers of Kandel's text have only received a partial presentation of the data. To support the role of genetic factors Kandel presents evidence from family, twin, and adoption studies, but does not mention several significant methodological problems with these studies. It is our contention that students would think differently about the genetic theory of schizophrenia if these problems were discussed. In each of these three areas of research, we present Dr. Kandel's evidence and then discuss the problems with that evidence. Given the influence of textbook chapters on students' subsequent opinions, the widespread acceptance of the genetic theory of schizophrenia must be tempered by the knowledge that medical students and other allied health professionals have heard only half the story.
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