A neuroscientist explores the biological bases of schizophrenia and tells the heartbreaking story of his own brother’s battle with the disease.
When bright lives are derailed by schizophrenia, bewildered and anxious families struggle to help, and to cope, even as scientists search for causes and treatments that prove elusive. Painful and often misunderstood, schizophrenia profoundly affects people who have the disease and their loved ones. Here Ronald Chase, an accomplished biologist, sets out to discover the facts about the disease and better understand what happened to his older brother, Jim, who developed schizophrenia as a young adult.
Chase’s account alternates between a fiercely loyal and honest memoir and rigorous scientific exploration. He finds scientific answers to deeply personal questions about the course of his brother’s illness. He describes psychiatric practice from the 1950s—when electroconvulsive shock therapy was common and the use of antipsychotic medications was in its infancy—to the development of newer treatments in the 1990s. Current medical and scientific research increases our understanding of genetic and environmental causes of the disease.
Chase also explores the stigma of mental illness, the evolution of schizophrenia, the paradox of its persistence despite low reproduction rates in persons with the disease, and the human stories behind death statistics. With the author’s intimate knowledge of the suffering caused by this disease, Schizophrenia emphasizes research strategies, the importance of sound scientific approaches, and the challenges that remain.
“A rare combination of family memoir and accessible explanation of the neuroscience, genetics, and the epidemiology of schizophrenia. I simply love this book.” —Patrick Tracey, PsychCentral
Chase, professor emeritus of biology at McGill University, delivers two intertwined narratives: the first is of the biosocial phenomenon of schizophrenia; the second is of the disease's impact on his own family (his brother Jim suffered from schizophrenia). Chase's account is a hybrid scientific study and memoir, one that informs not only through the scientific literature but also by poignantly describing Jim's plight: as a Jonathan Swift enthused college student, he was prone to outbursts, his animated literary lectures fading into hollow, vacant sentences as schizophrenia a term that remained unuttered within Chase's family began to take hold. Jim spent most of his life in treatments centers, visited by his family until his death at age 65. Chase reveals the darkest degrees of Jim's symptoms alongside his literary and creative side, noting the glimmers of the professor Jim might have been had schizophrenia never placed him in perpetual residential treatment. But even if Jim's life had intensely tragic moments, the narrative his brother writes is ultimately uplifting. Chase notes, in his final reflections, that the shifting social perceptions and acceptance of schizophrenia have improved the situation for sufferers and families alike a change that will only be bolstered by this sensitive and compassionate read. 11 b&w illus.
Ambitious and heartfelt.
I appreciate the author’s efforts in trying to understand and explain this terrible disease that obviously devastated his brother’s life. Some of the scientific information makes for pretty dry reading, but overall this is a valuable book about schizophrenia.
Causes of schizophrenia
This book looks at causes of schizophrenia and cites a high probability or genetics along with a low probability of environmental factors. Given that Aluminum is known to be neurotoxic it seems that it should be addressed and studied as a cause of at least some of the symptoms. Also the high fat low carb diet fad is known to negatively affect brain function, so the low fat high starch vegan diet should be studied as a beneficial therapy. Otherwise the book was very informative with the narrative about his brother’s 40 year battle with schizophrenia as well as the presentation of past and current treatments and drugs.