Biological Explanations

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Biological Explanations

Similarly, amphetamines also stimulate particular nerve cells, increasing levels of dopamine. In large doses, people may experience "amphetamine psychosis": hallucinations and delusions very similar to schizophrenic episode, also linking schizophrenia to elevated dopamine activity.

Tienari et al: studied adopted children of schizophrenic mothers compared to control group of adopted children from non-schizophrenic mothers. Found 10% of adopted children developed schizophrenia where the biological mother had it, despite being reared separately.

Suggests that genes only create a vulnerability to developing schizophrenia and whether this actually develops depends on family environment in childhood.

Diathesis-stress model

Gottesman & Shields: meta-analysis of 40 twins and family studies. Found concordance rates of 48% for MZ twins, 17% for DZ twins, 6% for siblings and 2% for uncles/aunts, which show a clear decline as the number of shared genes decreases, therefore providing strong support for the idea that schizophrenia is a heritable illness.

Biological Explanations (AO2)

Genetic explanation AO2

Evidence from drugs which decrease dopamine activity further supports the dopamine hypothesis by showing that symptoms of schizophrenia reduce as a result. Antipsychotic medication, such as phenothiazines, reduce many symptoms of schizophrenia in a majority of patients within 2-3 weeks and are still the mainstream of modern-day treatment.

Evidence from drugs which increase dopamine activity supports the idea that this can cause symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Patients with Parkinson's disease who were given L-dopa (a drug which increases levels of dopamine) suffered with schizophrenic symptoms, suggesting that high levels of dopamine may have played a role in causing schizophrenia.

Biochemical explanation AO2

Brain inflammation due to overactive microglia can be detected by brain scans, so may lead to earlier diagnosis of schizophrenia. If the illness is detected early, outcomes are better in the long term. New treatments that target brain inflammation might also be helpful in preventing schizophrenia in those at risk, or treating it in those who already suffer from the illness. Therefore, this theory is potentially very useful in advancing our understanding of schizophrenia and the range of options that can be offered to benefit patients.

Immune system hyperactivity

Their effectiveness also demonstrates the usefulness of the dopamine hypothesis in developing effective treatments which enable most schizophrenic patients to lead a normal life, where previously lengthy hospitalisation was required.

Biochemical explanation AO2


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