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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant he made from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters biochemistry and mental health. The program from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan. These programs have been developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often unglamorous job of basic research. Research in medicine the physical sciences the social sciences and the behavioral sciences. OK Julie you will hear what may seem like strange or unfamiliar silence. These are the sounds of the participants office his laboratory or his clinic where the interviews were recorded. Today you will hear a panel of doctors representing various medical specialty.
We will meet these men as they appear. My name is Glenn Philips. 16 million Americans are slowly inching their way out from under a great veil of guilt and shame. These 16 million human beings are victims of the most devastating illness ever to play a game mankind a blight. We have labelled mental illness. Is it really true one might ask that a fellow human being once felt another person who was afflicted by a mental or emotional problems were possessed by the devil or by a demon. This example may give some indication that this was indeed true. In 1955 the National Mental Health Week was ushered in by the ringing of a gigantic bell that had been cast from chains that once were used to restrain mental patients. Slowly this great big nigger is being lifted yes but there still is a long road ahead.
One theory held by many of the world's leading authority is that mental illness results not from these demons or devils but rather from biological and chemical changes within the functioning cells of mankind simply labeled the biochemical theory. This program is devoted to that subject and simply we will meet these men and their thoughts on this theory. First from Dr Leonard J do of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda Maryland. We asked his feelings on the biochemical theory. Oh yes I'm a daydreamer daydreamer says that eventually will be able to come up with a comprehensive theory that incorporates the biological psychological and social. Processes in the development of man I happen to think they're all intimately related. For example me. The
genetic background of an individual certainly affects his subsequent behavior. We know France and for instance that what happens to a child while he's still on born during the first third of pregnancy can have a tremendous impact on his future development. We know for example the difficulties in this first third of pregnancy can very often lead to mental retardation. We know the nutrition of the mother has a tremendous impact on the development of the trial and this is the original base. You begin to. I see that this kind of base that exists in individuals. Affects the ability of an individual to relate to his family and affects his ability to relate to.
His colleagues and friends and so forth. Dr. duel continues by answering my next question to him which was if there is truth in the biochemical theory might retardation of a child or an adult be merely a degree of mental illness. His answer was that if we can so that the human body. Faces occurs at a certain period in life say genetically more. True entry utero during pregnancy. You might very often get some sort of biological change in the individual. If it's severe or if it's localized in a certain spot you may find yourself with mental retardation. If it's localized or is of a general nature
in an area which is. Currently not too well understood. It may lay the groundwork for the development later in the child as he begins to mature and goes into a period of development with the psychological process sees in relationships between child and parent or between child and child are tremendously important. It may lay the groundwork for subsequent mental illness. This is how I would tie it together. I have a feeling the total human organism this way is a complex interrelated. Thing which not only has no boundary between the biological son and the psychological and social side but. He's as I've said before he has boundaries to the total community are. Pretty diffuse.
Very often when a crisis occurs to an individual. What happens is that the human being breaks down and it's most susceptible spot. And the susceptibility may depend on genetics or general constitution nutrition. Previous experience. If the person for example has a background of genetic background of diabetes in the total family and if the person always hide his feelings when the person hits a crisis situation and can't face it they may very well end up with diabetes. But if this person if another person you didn't have a history of diabetes in the family or susceptibility to diabetes the person may break down with a current Arry because this is the way he works at his tensions. When another person may were show itself in some sort of psychiatric disorder there is some thinking on the part of some of us that some of these things are equivalents to each other. I mentioned diabetes a moment ago because I know of many
instances of people who once they did get diabetes as a result of a crisis situation. Once the diabetes is under control with insulin they switch over and become depressed. As if the depression and diabetes are equivalent to each other in a sense you can deal just with the diabetes you may have to go back in time to the crisis and the insult to the organism to find what kicked this whole thing off. And then both the diabetes and the depression might lift. So in a sense I mean again calling for total medical biological social approach to individuals to understand the genetic background and the psychological way of dealing with problems the biological way that persons learn to deal with problems. I think we're pretty far from this right now I don't think we know all the answers on the same subject the biochemical changes and mental deficiency. Dr Don Jackson of the Palo Alto medical clinic had these comments.
There isn't good scientific evidence on this point but common sense tells us. It's likely it will turn out that there are degrees of all kinds of learning and behavioral capacities. But my point still remains that whatever the degree the individual is born with. There is such a tremendous amount of flexibility possible in the world that his capacities could be utilized. It is only when he is put to into a situation where his capacities are demanded of to an extent he can't deliver that you get mental illness. Certainly there is evidence to point to a tremendous difference in the incidence of schizophrenia in rural communities versus urban communities it being much lower and in rural communities most people who come from a small town or village can tell you about the village idiot. Someone who is accepted as a
character who causes no trouble who is treated tolerantly because everybody knows that he is so-and-so son and that he isn't too bright. However the village idiot in New York City. Is in an entirely different situation in cannot be tolerated and will be picked up by social forces through the school system the police or what have you. And we have a mental patient. I think these are again the differences in context are not just family but they also obtain to community to ethnic differences religious differences and so on. Doctor Jackson continued his comments when I asked him to explain further the biochemical change within the cellular structure the brain. Freud once said that a characteristic of the neurotic was that he made everything worse that he seek to cure. And I think this is a very profound statement that it's quite possible that
someone who becomes anxious upset whatever in a particular family context produces biochemical changes in himself that then make him even more unable to deal with his problems and increase the conflict within the family. There is some evidence for example that having an ulcer makes you have a worse ulcer. It is at the level of acid produced by ulceration. It is increased which increases the amount of ulceration. There are other kinds of. So-called feedback mechanisms in the body which would go along with this thesis so that I think it's likely that. But what we call a psychosis is in part A and emotional reaction in part a biochemical reaction to these emotions. I think this is more likely than that it is a predestined hereditary affair which has
marked the individual from birth and simply waits until he is x number of years old in order to break out. These two men Dr. Jackson and Dr. Drew will have briefly discussed the physiology of the biochemical theory in mental health. The rest of the gentlemen you will hear today commented on the theory its limitation and its advantages. First Dr. Lawrence Cobb of Columbia University. It would be impossible to accept this theory. There are many that are based on disturbances or failures of the brain to develop properly disturbances which may be bio chemical they may be physical such as one is when one's head is injury. They may be due to. Inherited defects in the development of the brain. But it would be unacceptable to me to field or attempt to explain all such illnesses on the basis of purely processes deriving from biochemical or traumatic disturbances.
The reason for this is that the brain happens to be an organ which is capable of having imprinted on itself. The consequences of experience in other words the brain as it exists in us than animals imprints upon its surfaces and its inner parts. The results of a long period of experiences of various types and these experiences really determine the way it responds when it's faced with a particular stress or a particular problem. And this response we call behavior. If the experiences are of a type that determine a repetitive inflexible individualistic and. Shall we say disturbing behavior. We call it illness. In other words one may not exactly state that all the consequences of all the above all the products we call mentally illness are determined on a purely by a chemical process
there are other factors operating and one of these are the consequences of the long learning process that all of us must go through in life. Even so from these imprints left on the surface of the brain it's still a biological physiological thing isn't it. This is correct. He impresses upon a biological and physiological organism the thing I've tried to establish is that if you were worth you guys it's nothing that is so mystical It is impossible to understand the term you used has been used for probably a hundred million before it's nothing that there's a demon vested in you that causes this irrational behavior. You go along with this one certainly don't you. I would go along with that very definitely one of the big questions we have before us is this. In what way are these memory traces of the experiences laid down on this brain. What chemical elements are the ones that. Establish
and fix the experience this is a question. About which no one may now give an answer but it is one that's preoccupying many of our ablest biochemist. We'll hear next from Dr. Jerome t Silverton of the University of Minnesota. That's a scientist I might try to step through that song. Much remember unless it's produced by biochemical changes. Storing that sort of spectrum supporting evidence is provided. That's a medical scientist I appreciate the limitation of any such story. The biochemical changes are changes observed or effect as a back to run I just I would consider that back. Disease is caused by bacteria it is. The back door is just close by our results from biochemical changes and even more true.
But an infectious disease is only partly by infectious agents attacked by the resultant biochemical changes and partly by the response of the patient to the infection and to these changes. Even concerning the theory that our mental disease is produced by biochemical changes. I would be prepared to learn that this patient that will. Respond more or less intensely to the same biochemical change. For this reason I feel that this one fact rather public acceptance of mental problems only to some extent it should. Of course much of the social stigma of mental disease but it may not remove all some of the social stigma at least presumably results from the uncertainty that the patient is not susceptible to relapse.
Biochemical theory can be expected to encourage biochemical and cyber research on mental disease. But these should be expanded. What ever theory is accepted. Medical treatment. Undoubtedly have psychiatric aspects even with biochemical therapeutic agents are developed. Dr John F. Anders when interviewed in Boston Massachusetts held these feeling the outbreak in New Jersey their fellow was caught but he declined. And several mild I did fire. And certainly that can cause very severe injury to the brain and lead to. Very profound nature.
Whether or not the infection with Barry to have mild may have a much milder effect on the central nervous system can also. Cause minor. Change. BUSH Now if the behavior. Still remains a possibility that has not been demonstrated as we have heard Dr. enders has drawn an analogy between mental health and the viruses in Dallas Texas at the widely Research Institute we interviewed Dr. Joseph field and he had these comments to make on the biochemical theory of mental illness. Not only believe this is true. And that there is a new era dawning for mental disease which is one of the other great problems facing the human race. But conversely I think we cannot help but recognize that if there's a chemical basis for a mental disease or conversely a
mental problem psychosomatic problems may set into motion chemical effects that may cause other disease. It's easy to go off the deep end with this one and has one trained in pathology. I hope I won't do this. I've become immensely intrigued However with some of the material that we have elicited from leukemia patients and histories and even with hypnotic methods. Very unusual psychic traumas and so forth. At the moment I cannot see how this fits into the causation of leukemia. But we have seen at least the coincidence of some very strange things along this line and one instance I had a very horrible experience. I won't detail at the moment but he had a terrific guilt complex concerning this involving a death in his own family and only when this feeling was removed. Psychotherapy hypnotherapy
did this patient seem to improve. I do not know. Nor can I say with any certainty that there's any relationship to this. However he had been under intensive therapy for an exceptional length of time without good results. Dr. Hill a physician and clinician and nurses the biochemical view without reservation for the view of a psychiatrist I talked with Dr. John Kinross right in Houston Texas at the Baylor Medical Center. It's my own personal belief that ultimately all change is in an individual's behavior. The result of. Changes within his brain cells and these changes of cause can be produced from within the organism such as by changes in his diet or by drugs which are given to him. All of the changes can result in outside influences and stimulate. When somebody makes a person angry this anger is surely associated with changes in his brain cells. We get some inkling
that this is going on by the fact that his blood pressure goes up. And that his pupils dilate and that his breathing gets heavier. These things cannot happen without some change in the brain to close them. And. Presumably everything that happens to an individual in the course of his lifetime. Makes my last permanent effect on his brain. Everything that happens to him and that is remembered. Presumably is associated with some chemical change in a cell which enables him to store up his memory. And now once again these views from two physicians clinicians. They are Dr. Roger Mitchell of the University of Colorado and Dr. Saul Roy Rosenthal of the University of Illinois. First Dr. Mitchell I think there's little doubt that when it can be shown to an individual that his tuberculosis is the result of his being infected with a germ from somewhere outside his body and
is not a reflection upon his family or upon his nature personality his behavior. You make a step in the right direction and in dealing with this person personally and by the same token I would predict that a person who has emotional second erotic or psychotic even disturbances that if the family as well as the patient were aware that this state was or might be the result of anatomical or biochemical changes in the individual's brain or body it would be a great comfort. I'm sure it would to to me to know if I fell apart emotionally that this was the result of something that happened to me rather than something I induced upon myself. Now as a matter of fact I think oh I cannot prove
it. I think that what we do. Are a sense of right and wrong our brain will still always be shown to have a major role in determining just what happens in the mental health spiritual he said. On the other hand I think biochemical changes will be shown to play a very important role also perhaps laying the groundwork so that our behavior only acts as a trigger. It has been my feeling for many years and we have worked on this matter experimentally and that most. Physiological action or pathologic actions. Result from a chemical. This char. In other words are chemically mediated. Now we have established this for example for the transmission of many nervous impulses. The problem for example that we personally work with is the mechanism of pain for example. We have found a chemical which mediates pain and. In the
same line of thinking most physiologic processes. Are chemically mediated I feel now getting back to mental illnesses is no reason to believe why that shouldn't be chemically mediated. In fact there has been some recent work and very exciting work showing that such a drug as Sara Tonin so-called 5:05 doctor took to mean. Has been found in the brain. And has been found to be example of. Increased or decreased depending upon the presence or absence of certain psychosis. Those two views held by Dr. Roger Mitchell of the University of Colorado and Dr. Saul Roy Rosenthal of the University of Illinois and both concur with the biochemical theory in mental health. And now for two more psychiatry we hear from Dr. Harry Calvin Jr. of the University of Chicago and Dr. Harry Levinson of the Menninger foundation
in Topeka Kansas concluding this program. One of the striking insights in recent years is is concerned Psychosomatic Medicine and sequences like that which indicate that a lot of physical illness really has an emotional source that seems to me me really quite brilliant the idea that ulcers asthma this that the other thing may frequently find their source and emotional disturbance seems to be very impressive and again an example of one of these points that I think is beginning to break through at the popular level I think people begin to understand this now on the reverse side. I know it is true that you can produce all sorts of aberant behavior. By a radical change in diet. By putting electrodes in a man's brain. And there is no doubt that a rather delicate balance of an enormous number of chemical and biological forces keeps a human being going in the human form which we know him yet.
My my own personal inclination is a while away from trying to explain to much of the interesting side of human behavior in purely physical or biochemical terms and any of it I would think there would be a great deal left for the social scientists to do for a long time to come. And efforts to explain as I say the human part of human behavior without waiting for the biochemist to solve his problem for him. Dr Levinson that the many good foundation in Topeka Kansas answered this question with the acceptance of the biochemical theory. Help the public in confronting and attacking the problem. I think conceivably it could cause a reversal in a number of ways. First if the public were better informed it would see that its hospitals were better in many states the state hospitals are still nothing more than a custody Linster Titian's and people don't get treated in that way given good treatment people can get out of hospitals very quickly. Second given knowledge the
public will insist upon research the public will not let people waste their lives away at hospitals when they might just as well be treated cured and gotten out of hospitals. Third with awareness of the need the public will not permit people to sit in hospitals because there are no jobs available for them or because there are erroneous impressions about what mental illness is. That is people will be more willing to accept former patients into their companies their stores their businesses as employees. People will be more willing to work out rehabilitation programs and things of that sort. There are a good many people in our hospitals and all of our hospitals everywhere who could leave those hospitals tomorrow if there were people in their home communities who were willing to receive them who are willing to help them find jobs and who are willing to help them get started again. There's no question in my mind that the greater public awareness and interest in turn leads to greater confidence and
faith and that in turn will lead to fewer people spending less time in hospitals. The consensus of the opinion of this authoritative group seem to support the biochemical theory of mental illness. If the theory be shown as totally defensible as time and further research develop. Then the greatest step toward eradication and control of mental illness will have occurred. Next week you will hear Dr. George W. Albi who is chairman of the Department of Psychology at the Western Reserve University at Cleveland and he is joined by members of the Mental Health Research Institute at the University of Michigan as they discuss mental health manpower needs on the next program from the series human behavior social and medical research. Glenn Phillips speaking asking that you join us next week and thanking you for being with us at this time. This program has been produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in
Aspects of mental health
Biochemistry and mental health
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University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on biochemistry and mental health. Guest are Jerome T. Syverton, M.D.; John F. Enders, M.D.; Joseph Hill, M.D.; John Kinross-Wright, M.D.; Roger Mitchell, M.D.; Harry Kalven, Jr., M.D.; Leonard J. Duhl, M.D.; and others.
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A documentary series on the role of behavioral sciences and medical research.
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Host: Canham, Erwin D. (Erwin Dain), 1904-1982
Interviewee: Enders, John F.
Interviewee: Duhl, Leonard J.
Interviewee: Syverton, Jerome T.
Interviewee: Kalven, Harry
Interviewee: Kinross-Wright, John
Interviewee: Hill, Joseph
Interviewee: Mitchell, Roger
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 62-18-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:22
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Chicago: “Aspects of mental health; Biochemistry and mental health,” 1962-05-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 11, 2022,
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APA: Aspects of mental health; Biochemistry and mental health. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from