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Schizophrenia: A Brother Finds Answers in Biological Science

Overview

When bright lives are derailed by schizophrenia, bewildered and anxious families struggle to help, and to cope, even as scientists search for causes and treatments that prove elusive. Painful and often misunderstood, schizophrenia profoundly affects people who have the disease and their loved ones. Here Ronald Chase, an accomplished biologist, sets out to discover the facts about the disease and better understand what happened to his older brother, Jim, who developed ...

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Schizophrenia: A Brother Finds Answers in Biological Science

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Overview

When bright lives are derailed by schizophrenia, bewildered and anxious families struggle to help, and to cope, even as scientists search for causes and treatments that prove elusive. Painful and often misunderstood, schizophrenia profoundly affects people who have the disease and their loved ones. Here Ronald Chase, an accomplished biologist, sets out to discover the facts about the disease and better understand what happened to his older brother, Jim, who developed schizophrenia as a young adult.

Chase’s account alternates between a fiercely loyal and honest memoir and rigorous scientific exploration. He finds scientific answers to deeply personal questions about the course of his brother’s illness. He describes psychiatric practice from the 1950s—when electroconvulsive shock therapy was common and the use of antipsychotic medications was in its infancy—to the development of newer treatments in the 1990s. Current medical and scientific research increases our understanding of genetic and environmental causes of the disease.

Chase also explores the stigma of mental illness, the evolution of schizophrenia, the paradox of its persistence despite low reproduction rates in persons with the disease, and the human stories behind death statistics. With the author’s intimate knowledge of the suffering caused by this disease, Schizophrenia emphasizes research strategies, the importance of sound scientific approaches, and the challenges that remain.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/26/2013
Chase, professor emeritus of biology at McGill University, delivers two intertwined narratives: the first is of the biosocial phenomenon of schizophrenia; the second is of the disease’s impact on his own family (his brother Jim suffered from schizophrenia). Chase’s account is a hybrid scientific study and memoir, one that informs not only through the scientific literature but also by poignantly describing Jim’s plight: as a Jonathan Swift–enthused college student, he was prone to outbursts, his animated literary lectures fading into hollow, vacant sentences as schizophrenia—a term that remained unuttered within Chase’s family—began to take hold. Jim spent most of his life in treatments centers, visited by his family until his death at age 65. Chase reveals the darkest degrees of Jim’s symptoms alongside his literary and creative side, noting the glimmers of the professor Jim might have been had schizophrenia never placed him in perpetual residential treatment. But even if Jim’s life had intensely tragic moments, the narrative his brother writes is ultimately uplifting. Chase notes, in his final reflections, that the shifting social perceptions and acceptance of schizophrenia have improved the situation for sufferers and families alike—a change that will only be bolstered by this sensitive and compassionate read. 11 b&w illus. (Nov.)
Examiner.com - Robin Wulffson
Schizophrenia is a book written for anyone touched by the disease. Dr. Chase asserts that it is not a scientific text for healthcare professionals; however, in my opinion, the book is informative for them as well... The book is a must-read for anyone who has a loved one suffering from schizophrenia.
Midwest Book Review
It's more than a professor of biology's coverage: it blends his own family story of his brother's life and affliction with a review of the latest scientific literature on the issue, making for a guide especially user-friendly to families struggling with the result of a diagnosis.
PsychCentral - Patrick Tracey
What Dr. Chase produces is a rare combination of family memoir and accessible explanation of the neuroscience, genetics, and the epidemiology of schizophrenia. I simply love this book.
Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Brett C. Plyler, M.D.(Northwestern Memorial Hospital)
Description: With this book, the author attempts to portray schizophrenia through his own scientific explorations and through the life of his brother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Purpose: The purpose is to present a more complete account of schizophrenia — both the scientific and the personal.
Audience: It is written for anyone interested in schizophrenia or mental illness. It is particularly useful for lay people attempting to better understand the disease of schizophrenia.
Features: The book is divided into sections on the scientific aspects of schizophrenia interspersed with the stories of the author's brother, Jim. The prologue outlines the author's reasons for writing the book and how he became a biology professor interested in mental illness. The book opens with the author's family moving to Los Angeles from Chicago and the last days of normality for Jim. The chapters then take readers through the arc of Jim's life, from stays in state mental institutions and attempts at independent life to his death. The scientific discussions of schizophrenia roughly correlate to the phases of Jim's life, providing a vivid illustration of the more objective sections on treatment options and neuroscience. In each chapter, the technical terms are bolded, with explanations appearing in the glossary at the end of the book. There are also short summaries of the biological material at the end of the chapters. The numerous photographs of the author and his family (particularly of Jim) help to establish a visual connection to the story. References are relevant, but not too numerous.
Assessment: This is a captivating book. The author does an excellent job of providing appropriate scientific material for readers of any background. He manages to capture all of the research on schizophrenia to date and summarize it in a digestible manner. The glossary at the end is also particularly useful to someone new to schizophrenia. The story of the author's brother Jim is the most compelling part of the book. To read about a family's struggle with understanding and dealing with schizophrenia in the 1950s is sad, difficult, and uplifting at the same time. I found myself skimming the scientific material to see what happened next with Jim and how he tried to adapt to his mental illness. The author presents a very realistic and vivid look into the life of a schizophrenic, and the compassion and sacrifice that the family made to help Jim. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a relative or loved one with schizophrenia, and to any mental health professional who needs to be reminded about the effects of mental illness on the patient and the family.
PsycCRITIQUES - William D. Spaulding
The book Schizophrenia: A Brother Finds Answers in Biological Science is a period piece. It is a combination of personal recollections spanning the second half of the 20th century and an extended pedagogical discussion of some of the research on schizophrenia during that period.
The Biologist - Natasha Ganecki
While schizophrenia may be well known, it is widely misunderstood. Chase has successfully produced a succinct scientific overview of schizophrenia that also gives a touching insight into the lives of those affected by this complex disease.
Library Journal
★ 11/15/2013
Chase (emeritus, biology, McGill Univ.; The Physical Basis of Mental Illness) writes with scientific credentials and familial devotion about his younger brother, Jim (1933–98), who suffered from schizophrenia beginning in adolescence and spent his adult life in California institutions. The book's clearly written chapters alternate between reminiscence and scientific explanation of mental illness and explore its basis in brain function, genetics, epidemiology, and pharmacology. Chase deplores the psychoanalytic approach to Jim's illness in the 1950s, insisting that the mind is "nothing but an aspect of the brain's physiological activity." Through Chase's narrative, Jim and his family's story comes alive, as though conversations were recorded and preserved for publication. The more technical chapters are considerately summarized with a list of key points. VERDICT A daunting subject viewed through the lens of neuroscience, evolution, and medical history, served to readers as a personal, moving narrative. Chase provides a model of effective science writing; recommended for specialists in psychiatry and neuroscience as well as general readers.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781421410913
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2013
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 987,696
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald Chase is a professor emeritus of biology at McGill University. He is author of The Physical Basis of Mental Illness and Behavior and Its Neural Control in Gastropod Molluscs.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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