Biological psychiatry pioneer dies

american journal of psychiatry2.GIFOne of the pioneers of biological psychiatry, Professor Joseph Schildkraut, died recently, aged 72.

“Thanks to Schildkraut, it was generally accepted that depression is a medical illness and that many mental disorders are related to imbalances in chemicals in the brain”, says his obituary that appeared in the Times.

Schildkraut laid out his ideas in the 1965 paper “The Catecholamine Hypothesis of Affective Disorders”, which became the most highly cited paper ever to appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry, and one of the most cited papers in all of psychiatry.

“He saw patients who had been unresponsive to talk therapy suddenly come alive when drugs were introduced, and he got very excited about that,” his wife, Betsy Schildkraut, told the Boston Globe.

Dr. Alan I. Green, chairman of Dartmouth Medical School’s psychiatry department told the Globe: ‚ÄúI think he was a giant in the field. I think that initial paper, perhaps more than any other, defined the psychopharmacological era.‚Äù

However, Professor Schildkraut’s death comes at a time of increasing scepticism towards the chemical imbalance model of mental illness. At a recent debate hosted by the Royal Institution, psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff of UCL recently named the model as the worst ever idea on the mind.

In the last 15 years of his career, Professor Schildkraut studied the link between depression, spirituality and artistic creativity. He had also been committed to bringing the best medical care to people who ordinarily could not afford it.

Link to Times Obituary.
Link to abstract of The Catecholamine Hypothesis.

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