Introduction

When examined closely, psychiatric disorders fundamentally entail social communication problems for those afflicted. Sociophysiology represents a useful concept that refers to normal functional brain-body system actions, ranging from autonomic to affective to cognitive components that become disordered in psychiatric illnesses (Gardner, 1997). An excellent example from animal studies would be the severe effects of social defeat

Textbook of Biological Psychiatry. Edited by Jaak Panksepp Copyright © 2004 by Wiley-Liss, Inc. ISBN: 0-471-43478-7

on the physiology of the laboratory rat, including loss of body weight, testicular involution, adrenal hypertrophy, and chronic fearfulness. In adult animals such effects can often be reversed dramatically by the availability of friendly social contacts (e.g., Ruis et al., 1999). One could anticipate that positive social interventions soon after traumatic events could do much to block the long-term negative consequences of similar stressors in humans.

Even though stress-induced disorders reduce health and well-being, their high epigenetic prevalence suggest these brain, bodily, and behavioral changes were adaptive in the past (for a summary of stress physiology, see Chapter 4). Using this as a jumpoff point, we examine psychiatric disorders from the perspective of the normative evolutionary order from which they depart. Our analysis invokes the work of Charles Darwin (1859) who initiated much of our present understanding as to how living forms attained their characteristics, including various behavioral attributes.

This chapter emphasizes how psychiatric disorders arise from the sociophysiologi-cal aberrations of evolved communication repertoires among conspecifics (members of a same species). Evolutionary biology studies how behavior has developed in animal species by making across-species contrasts and comparisons and making inferences about ancestral species. An evolutionary focus on behavior takes a central position in this view of biological psychiatry that expands beyond cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying beneficial drug actions. The chapter (1) briefly surveys relevant evolutionary concepts, (2) reviews general sociobiological factors of ultimate causation, (3) examines psychiatric pathogenesis in terms of communicational biology, (4) examines research that models sociophysiology in substance abuse and social rank hierarchy, and (5) finally considers preliminary treatment implications of a "social brain" paradigm.

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