Paradigms of Psychiatry: Eclecticism and Its Discontents

Seyyed Nassir Ghaemi

Disclosures

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2006;19(6):619-624. 

In This Article

Integrationism: The Search for a Single Explanatory Model

Most humans want a single explanation for many things. Indeed, this is a hallmark of classic scientific thought: Occam's razor would pull together many observations in one theory. Thus, the search to integrate different paradigms or methods, to find the underlying theory that would pull it all together, has been a constant in psychiatric history. Where Freud and Kraepelin failed in their dogmatic approaches, modern integrationists seek to succeed by being more flexible. Perhaps the most famous current attempt is that of Kandel,[40] a Nobel prize winning scientist and psychiatrist. Kandel argues that work on conditioned learning in aplysia suggests that the environment can alter brain structure and thus demonstrates the two-way nature of brain/environment interaction. Thus, at some level we should be able to demonstrate what changes in the brain happen with environmental changes (such as psychotherapy); this would then provide a neuroscientific justification for psychotherapies, even psychoanalysis. An approach to such work, called 'neuropsychoanalysis', has been developed.[41]

Although intriguing in principle, there is a long way from aplysia to humans. Kandel may have shown that such translational work might be feasible in principle, but one wonders whether it ever will be practically feasible at the higher order level cognitions of humans, not to mention the complex states of psychopathology.

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