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Of Mad Mice and Madmen

The University of North Carolina just got a big load of chump change to the tune of 8.6 million $ to study the relationship genetics plays in the development of psychiatric disorders according to a recent post to Star News Online’s Health Pulse blog.

The National Institutes of Health today announced the grants, which also will go to other research schools like the Medical College of Wisconsin and Johns Hopkins University.

UNC’s funding will create a new Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science at the school. The money will come in over five years, and the National Institute of Mental Health – part of NIH – will fund the first two years of UNC’s project, which will receive about $6 million of the total through federal stimulus money.

The article goes on to say:

The research will combine genetics and neurobehavior using unique strains of lab mice to find genetic and environmental factors in psychiatric conditions.

From mice to men and women, now that is a big leap.

Didn’t I just post a blog entry on research showing that many people labeled bipolar disorder sufferers manage to recover from this disorder before they reach the age of 30? The kind of research that shows that people recover from serious mental illnesses flies in the face of this other kind of research being conducted today. Many universities, research teams, and funding foundations continue to pursue that mad cluster of genes ignoring the above evidence completely. If recovery is possible, then genetic make up can only be so important in the development of mental disorders.

The psychiatric profession, in a desperate bid to validate itself as a legitimate science, has spent much time and energy promoting this kind of wild gene chase. The presumption is that the primary factor involved in the development of serious mental illness is biological, or genetic. Well, the problem here is that there is no science whatsoever in making that presumption. Simply put, environmental and social factors in the development of mental illness have not been found to be any less instrumental than biological factors in the formation of such diseases.

Alright, that said, isn’t spending money on this matter a little like “putting the cart before the horse” as the popular expression goes? Your chances of getting anywhere except back to square one are not that great when you are starting with a presumption. (Science would presume nothing after all.) The idea is not to rule out environment nor society until the evidence is in.

As I have pointed out previously, the rate of mental illness in the USA has been climbing dramatically since the beginning of the twentieth century. The labeled mentally ill have not been found to be particularly more adept in reproducing than any other social group in our society. This fact alone would tend to rule out genetics as the determining factor in the development of serious mental illness. I’m not saying we should ignore the human genome, but maybe we should spend a little more money on exploring the social and environmental dimensions involved in the development of mental illness, too.

8.6 million $ is a lotta money to throw away on the care and maintenance of a Jabberwocky.