PSYCH257 Lecture Notes - Eric Kandel, Developmental Psychopathology, Psychopathology
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Integrative Approach to Psychopathology
One Dimensional and Multidimensional Models
One dimensional models attempt to trace origins of a behaviour to a single cause
o Ex. Linear causal model would trace schizophrenia to a chemical imbalance and nothing else.
Multidimensional perspective is more common and more accurate, believes abnormal behaviour
results from multiple influences.
o Feedback loop may have independent inputs at different times, but when each input enters
the system it can no longer be independent.
o Perspective on causality is systemic - implies that any influence contributing to
psychopathology cannot be considered out of context
o Context is biology, behaviour, cognitive, emotional, social and cultural environment because
one component affects all the others
Factors influencing psychopathology
o Behaviour - learned reactions
o Biological - genetics, physiology, neurobiology
o Emotional - emotional regulation, emotions can affect physiological responses
o Social - social support, loneliness
o Cultural - environment we were brought up in
o Developmental - passage of time, react different depending on our age, developmental critical
period (more or less reactive to a given situation or influence than at other times)
Genetic Contributions to Psychopathology
Genes: long molecules of DNA at various locations on chromosomes in the cell nucleus.
Understand that physical characteristics like hair and eye colour are strongly influenced by genetics
thanks to the work of Gregor Mendel
Normal human cells have 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs. In each pair, one chromosome
comes from the mom and one from the dad.
o First 22 pairs of chromosomes provide programs for development of body and brain. The last
chromosome pair is called the sex chromosome because it determines an individual's sex.
Females have XX while males have XY
DNA molecules that contain genes have the double helix structure (shape of a spiral staircase). On
the double helix are simple molecules bound together and arranged in different orders (X
chromosome has roughly 160million base pairs). Ordering of base pairs determines how the body
develops and works.
o If something is wrong in the ordering of the base pairs it will result in a defective gene. May or
may not lead to problems.
o Dominant gene is one of a pair that determines a particular trait. Recessive gene must be
paired with another recessive gene to determine a trait. Dominant genes, using Mendelian
law, can be used to accurately predict how many offspring will develop a certain trait,
characteristic or disorder.
o Polygenic - influenced by many genes, each contributing a small effect
o Quantitative genetics: sum up all the small effects across many genes without saying which
genes are responsible for which effects.
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50% of personality traits and cognitive abilities come from genetics. Genetic factors contribute less
than 50% to psychological disorders
Some people with severe mental retardation (childhood disorder involving significantly below
average intelligence and adaptive functioning) have identifiable genetic disorders involving a single
o Fragile X syndrome: one genetic cause of mental retardation. Due to mutation on tip of the X
chromosome, affects males.
Likely that specific genes or small groups of genes may be associated with certain psychological
disorders. However, effect on psychological disorders mostly polygenic
Interaction of Genetic and Environmental Effects
o Eric Kandel - speculated that the process of learning affects more than behaviour, suggested
that genetic structure of cells may change as a result of learning, genes that were inactive or
dormant can become can interact with the environment to become active. May lead to
changes in the number of receptors at the end of a neuron which would affect biochemical
functioning in the brain
o Idea is that the brain and its functions are plastic, subject to continual change in response to
o Diathesis-stress model: Individuals inherit, from multiple genes, tendencies to express certain
traits or behaviours which may then be activated under conditions of stress.
Each inherited tendency is a diathesis, makes the person susceptible to developing a
Tendency to express certain behaviour is the vulnerability (tendency to develop a
The stress of an event, situation or thought activates the genetic tendency to express
certain behaviours, leading to a psychological disorder.
The greater underlying vulnerability, the less stress needed to trigger a disorder
o Reciprocal Gene Environment Model: people with a genetic predisposition for a disorder also
have a genetic tendency to create environmental risk factors that promote the disorder
Idea that genes may increase the probability that an individual will experience stressful
life events. People with a genetic vulnerability to develop a disorder, like blood-injury-
injection phobia, may also have a personality trait that makes them more likely to be in
minor accidents that involve seeing blood. May have genetically determined tendency
to create the environmental risk factor that triggers a genetic vulnerability.
Whether or not genetic factors are involved depend on the type of trauma. Both genetic
and environmental affected whether or not people were exposed to assaultive traumas;
only environmental factors influence whether or not people were exposed to
o Nongenomic Inheritance of Behaviour
McGill's Michael Meaney "cross fostering": took rats born or fearful and easily stressed
mothers and placed them with calm mothers. Demonstrated that calm and supportive
behaviour could be passed down through generations of rats independent of genetic
influences; rats born of fearful mothers and raised by calm ones were calmer than their
Environmental effects of early parenting seem to override genetic contribution to
behaviour (Suomi and rhesus monkeys).
Cultural, Social and Interpersonal Factors
Fright disorder: exaggerated startle responses.
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o Susto: anxiety based symptoms (insomnia, irritability, phobias). Caused by 'black magic'. Called
the 'evil eye' in some culture.
What we fear is strongly influenced by our social environment and cultural context.
o Likelihood of having a particular phobia influenced by gender. Also difference in rates of mood
o Could have something to do with our gender roles: not acceptable for men to show or admit
fear in our culture. More acceptable to women to acknowledge fearfulness and so a phobia
Social Effects on Health and Behaviour
o Greater number and frequency of social contacts, the longer you will live
o More likely to catch a cold if social ties are minimal
o Some believe that interpersonal relationships give meaning to life and those with something
to live for can overcome physical difficulties and delay death
o Possible that social relationships facilitate health promoting behaviours
Influences on the Elderly
o Expression of physical and psychological disorders differ with age
o Over 65, those with few meaningful contacts and less social support have highly levels of
depression and more reports of unsatisfactory quality of life
o Psychological disorders carry a stigma in our society. Can make it hard for people to seek help
o Emphasises resolution of interpersonal problems and stressors
o Grew from work of Harry Sullivan
o Patient and therapist work together on identifying life stresses that precipitated the
o Common interpersonal issues: martial conflicts, death of a loved one, new job, identifying and
correcting deficits in social skills.
o Behavioural and mental problems in developing countries are exacerbated by political strife
Life Span Development
Believe it is inadequate to look at disorders from one particular time in a person’s life
Important developmental changes occur in all stages of life
Complex and challenging environments increased size and complexity of neurons in motor and
sensory cortical regions in adult and aged animals.
Age of onset defines the disorder, can be at a different level of severity, different expression of
Principle of Equifinality
o Equifinality: developmental psychopathology principle that a behaviour or disorder may have
several different causes
o Ex. Delusions can be an aspect of schizophrenia, but also come from amphetamine abuse.
o Paths can result from interaction of psychological and biological factors during various stages
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