Charts course for next generation research
About 1 in 10 people have the potential to develop schizophrenia, but only 1 in 100 actually end up with this devastating illness. The challenge is in knowing why some do and some don't.
Drawing from over 25 years of laboratory study, Mark F. Lenzenweger, a distinguished professor of clinical science, neuroscience and cognitive psychology at Binghamton University, thinks that not only does he have the makings of a good response to this troubling question but also how to go about finding those answers.
In his latest book, Schizotypy and Schizophrenia: The View from Experimental Psychopathology, Lenzenweger explores lessons he has learned in the psychological science laboratory while probing the broader questions of how to think about and conduct psychopathology research.
"The liability for schizophrenia is relatively prevalent and common in our population," said Lenzenweger. "Therefore, understanding why someone goes on to develop the illness is a high priority research question. I firmly believe that those who harbor this liability but do not develop the full-blown illness of schizophrenia may hold the key to this puzzle. Since this is an ongoing challenge for our society, training the next generation in how to think about and conduct psychopathology research is just as vital. So what I've tried to do is combine both of those elements in a way that I hope will appeal to both the experienced research and those just starting out."
The book traces Lenzenweger's intense efforts to find answers using laboratory and statistical procedures by examining a host of related conceptual issues, data analytic strategies and methodical viewpoints that he has found helpful over the years. Using clinical anecdotes and research recollection, Lenzenweger hopes that readers will develop an appreciation for those substantive issues that have and are currently pressing (and interesting) on the causes of schizophrenia and related disorders.
"Schizophrenia is perhaps the costliest form of mental illness," said Lenzenweger. "In addition, it has a strong genetic component; about 80 percent of what determines schizophrenia is related to genetic influences. All people with schizophrenia share a personality organization known as schizotypy. And the person who carries shizotypy is known as a schizotype. Yet not all schizotypes are schizophrenic. In fact, the vast majority of schizotypes do not go on to develop the illness. So it stands to reason that the study of schizotypic individuals offers a unique perspective on what might cause the illness."
According to Lenzenweger, the way forward in understanding the causes and development of schizophrenia will be complex and difficult terrain.
"There will be no simple solution or discovery the remedies the entire problem," said Lenzenweger. "But I hope that my book will chart the course for the field as it stands currently and show the way forward for the generation to come."