Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Intelligence and mental illness

In my last post, I suggested that intelligence, or more precisely neural plasticity, was originally an infant trait in ancestral humans. In modern humans, it seems to have progressively been extended into older age groups.

This isn’t a novel idea. It has been put forward by such people as Ashley Montagu (1989), Stephen J. Gould (1977), and Konrad Lorenz (1971). Interestingly, one author has argued that this persistent brain plasticity has made the human mind more susceptible to certain neuroses and other personality disorders.

Therefore, psychotic disorders may be the ‘price’ for the delay of maturation and for the rapid increase of brain size during the past 150,000 years. For example, normal development of the human nervous system is particularly dependent on sensory input. Social deprivation leads to stereotyped and self-injurious behaviour, resulting from an alteration of dopamine receptor sensitivity. The assumption of an enhanced susceptibility to psychotic disorders by delayed maturation may be underlined by the fact that most psychiatric disorders originate in early childhood, when the growth rate of the brain and acquisition of learned material is particularly high. (Brüne, 2000)

This point is interesting because it links up with Dr. Kawecki’s suggestion that “some diseases are a byproduct of intelligence” (see previous post).


Brüne, M. (2000). Neoteny, psychiatric disorders and the social brain: hypotheses on heterochrony and the modularity of the mind. Anthropology & Medicine, 7(3), 301-318.

Gould, S.J. (1977). Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lorenz, K. (1971). Studies in Animal and Human Behaviour, Vol 2. London: Methuen & Co.

Montagu, M.F.A. (1989). Growing Young. 2nd ed. New York: Bergin & Garvey.


Anonymous said...

I remember Gould talking about the increased neoteny of humans compared with other primates ...

He was also on about differential selection pressures ... however, what he seemed unable to understand is that there might have been different selection pressures on different groups and thus different outcomes.

Anonymous said...

"Social deprivation leads to... self- injurious behavior"
Is this an idea referring back to the Harry Harlow monkeys put into solitary confinment from birth,and unsurprisingly, exibiting behavioral pathology.

For a human being what is meant by "social deprivation"?
Surely not cold disconfirming or "schizogenic" mothers - such theories are long abandoned for autism and schizophrenia - self harm disorders.

You are much less likely to develop schizophrenia if you are in the countryside, when BORN, that is early chidhood I admit.

If your delay of maturation theory is correct -
susceptibility to psychotic disorders might tend to run in families with a lot of neural plasticity.

I believe Aspergers Syndrome is more common in intellectualy gifted families, and it is sometimes confused with schizotypal personality disorder.

Yes it holds good for Aspergers Syndrome ,I am not sure about schizophrenia .

Anonymous said...

Absolute Pitch In Williams Syndrome

Investigates "near ceiling levels of absolute pitch" in those tested. (General intelligence is said to correlate moderately with pitch discrimination)

also discusses the possibility that "the normal early childhood critical period of absolute pitch acquistition may be extended in individuals with Williams syndrome".

R. Ansh said...

I'm Suraj Sharma, from india, suffering from albinism. 75% of my vision is totally lost. I'm in 12th grade and wishing for to be a cosmologist. But the most surprising thing for the people around me is that I'm doing better than those who are normal, in my academic, and real life.. I'm an introvert too so I would say just every person who is suffering from albinism, believe in your potential, you can do better than others.. Seriously..

I still remember, in my school, I was unable to see on blackboard, and afrer 1 year my brain developed the capability of understand things by just hearing the word of teachers.. that is surprising fact for me too..

All the best..