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  • Psychopathology as adaptive development along distinctive pathways.

    6 December 2017

    Contrary to the standard assumption that psychopathology stems from developmental immaturity (retardation, fixation, regression), people diagnosed with psychopathology typically develop along distinctive pathways in which they build complex, advanced skills. These pathways are based on adaptation to trauma, such as maltreatment, or to problems in affective-cognitive regulation, such as those in autism. They do not fit normative developmental frameworks. Research has characterized several types of distinctive pathways, especially those arising from maltreatment; they are marked by normal developmental complexity but distinctive affective-cognitive organization. In one study sexually abused depressed adolescent girls admitted for treatment in a mental hospital described themselves-in-relationships with age-appropriate, complex developmental levels equal to those of both nonabused depressed girls and other adolescents. At the same time, they showed a powerful negativity bias contrasting with the positivity biases of other girls. Many of them produced dramatic switches in affective-cognitive organization across assessments contrasting with the similar organization showed by other girls. In another study toddlers from maltreating families showed a consistent negativity bias in play and representations of interactions. We show how to portray these distinctive developmental pathways through the example of Hidden Family Violence, in which people dissociate their private violent world from their public, good-citizen world.

  • Living well in theNeuropolis.

    28 February 2018

    This paper is about the relationship between cities and brains: it charts the back-and-forth between the hectic, stressful lives of urban citizens, and a psychological and neurobiological literature that claims to make such stress both visible and knowable. But beyond such genealogical labour, the paper also asks: what can a sociology concerned with the effects of 'biosocial' agencies take from a scientific literature on the urban brain? What might sociology even contribute to that literature, in its turn? To investigate these possibilities, the paper centres on the emergence and description of what it calls 'theNeuropolis' - a term it deploys to hold together both an intellectual and scientific figureanda real, physical enclosure. TheNeuropolisis an image of the city embedded in neuropsychological concepts and histories, but it also describes an embodied set of (sometimes pathological) relations and effects that take places between cities and the people who live in them. At the heart of the paper is an argument that finding a way to thread these phenomena together might open up new paths for thinking about 'good' life in the contemporary city. Pushing at this claim, the paper argues that mapping the relations, histories, spaces, and people held together by this term is a vital task for the future of urban sociology.

  • Revitalizing sociology: urban life and mental illness between history and the present.

    13 March 2018

    This paper proposes a re-thinking of the relationship between sociology and the biological sciences. Tracing lines of connection between the history of sociology and the contemporary landscape of biology, the paper argues for a reconfiguration of this relationship beyond popular rhetorics of 'biologization' or 'medicalization'. At the heart of the paper is a claim that, today, there are some potent new frames for re-imagining the traffic between sociological and biological research - even for 'revitalizing' the sociological enterprise as such. The paper threads this argument through one empirical case: the relationship between urban life and mental illness. In its first section, it shows how this relationship enlivened both early psychiatric epidemiology, and some forms of the new discipline of sociology; it then traces the historical division of these sciences, as the sociological investment in psychiatric questions waned, and 'the social' become marginalized within an increasingly 'biological' psychiatry. In its third section, however, the paper shows how this relationship has lately been revivified, but now by a nuanced epigenetic and neurobiological attention to the links between mental health and urban life. What role can sociology play here? In its final section, the paper shows how this older sociology, with its lively interest in the psychiatric and neurobiological vicissitudes of urban social life, can be our guide in helping to identify intersections between sociological and biological attention. With a new century now underway, the paper concludes by suggesting that the relationship between urban life and mental illness may prove a core testing-ground for a 'revitalized' sociology.

  • Selective patient and public involvement: The promise and perils of pharmaceutical intervention for autism.

    5 April 2018

    BACKGROUND: Guidelines suggest the patient community should be consulted from the outset when designing and implementing basic biomedical research, but such patient communities may include conflicting views. We examined how engagement occurred in one such instance. OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to scrutinize patient and public involvement (PPI) by a pan-European biomedical consortium working to develop drugs to treat autism. We aimed to use this as an example to illustrate how PPI has been utilized in biomedical research. SETTING, PARTICIPANTS AND ANALYSIS: Two public events, one in the UK and one in Denmark were conducted as part of the consortium's on-going PPI activities in 2014 and 2015. Sixty-six individuals submitted written comments on the consortium's research after these events. The textual data produced were analysed using a thematic approach. Approximately 71% of respondents reported themselves to be adults on the autism spectrum or parents of children with autism. RESULTS: The themes identified illustrated major differences between some community concerns and the biomedical research agenda. While treating autism per se. was seen as problematic by some, treating specific co-occurring problems was seen as helpful in some circumstances. The biomedical consortium selected PPI with a limited user viewpoint at its outset and more widely once basic research was on-going. DISCUSSION: This case illustrates what we term "selective PPI" where only a sympathetic and/or limited patient viewpoint is included. Findings highlight the perils of using selective PPI to legitimise scientific endeavours, and the possibilities for constructive dialogue.

  • The Case for Clinical Management of Neuroenhancement in Young People

    22 November 2017

    © Oxford University Press, 2015. All rights reserved. This chapter defends that over time, stimulants and other neuroenhancers will increasingly be used to enhance young people's cognitive and behavioural functioning, alongside growing general public acceptability of neuroenhancers as tools to improve academic, social and workplace performance. The chapter focuses on the most common current neuroenhancers used in young people - stimulant drugs. The chapter outlines the key social and ethical concerns raised by the use of stimulant drugs for enhancement in young people, and makes specific research, practice and policy recommendations. The chapter also suggests a rationale for clinical management of psychotropic neuroenhancers in young people, attending closely to the necessary boundaries on such practice asserted by structural and clinical factors, as well as by potential ethical conflicts. This outline and the subsequent rationale for management focuses on stimulants, but it can serve as a template for novel neuroenhancers that reach the child market.

  • BMA Margaret Temple Award 2013 for Dr Anthony James and colleagues

    21 May 2013

    Research to look at olfactory stem cells and induced pluripotential stem cells from skin fibroblasts of patients with adolescent-onset schizophrenia and matched healthy controls

  • Our necessary shadow - the nature and meaning of psychiatry

    21 May 2013

    Psychiatry has been under attack throughout its history, and the last generation, despite the enormous improvement in the effectiveness and safety of its treatments, has been no different. This book sets out to describe psychiatry, warts and all, for the general public so that they can make up their own minds when they read the various critiques that crowd our bookshops and newspapers.

  • Profile: Seena Fazel

    7 October 2015

    Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Oxford is in the spotlight for October’s 'The Lancet Psychiatry'

  • Waking up to the link between a faulty body clock and mental illness

    23 July 2013

    Professor Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford, writes about our biological clocks and possible links to mental illness that are emerging: ‘Our lives are ruled by time and we use time to tell us what to do. But the digital alarm clock that wakes us in the morning and the wrist-watch that tells us we are late for a meeting are not the clocks I mean. Our biology dances to a profoundly more ancient beat that probably started to tick early in the evolution of all life.’ (The Guardian, 22/07/2013)

  • The other side of the magic mushroom debate

    18 May 2016

    Professor Phil Cowen, from the University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry, writes a response to the claims that magic mushrooms could offer a magic bullet for treatment-resistant depression.

  • Professor Michael Sharpe is made NIHR Senior Investigator

    18 April 2016

    The Department of Psychiatry’s Professor of Psychological Medicine, Michael Sharpe, has been acknowledged in this year’s appointments to the role of NIHR Senior Investigator.

  • .. and welcome to Simon Lovestone!

    10 January 2014

    From The Old Age Psychiatrist

  • Chief Medical Officer: Dementia study ‘will help many’

    22 March 2013

    Oxford Mail, 22/03/2013, p.2

  • Community treatment orders do not reduce hospital admissions

    15 April 2013

    Tom Burns, chair of social psychiatry at Oxford University, calls for a moratorium on the use of community treatment orders, pending further analysis.

  • B vitamins offer Alzheimer's hope

    21 May 2013

    The Daily Telegraph, p.12, Nick Collins, Science Correspondent, 21/05/2013