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Age at Puberty and Mental Illness

Towards a Neurodevelopmental Aetiology of Kraepelin's Endogenous Psychoses

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Letten F. Saugstad*
Affiliation:
Behrensgt 5-0257, Oslo 2, Norway

Abstract

The hypothesis of a neurodevelopmental aetiology of manic-depressive psychosis and schizophrenia is based on the relation between onset of puberty and the final regressive events in the central nervous system (elimination of 40% of neuronal synapses), and the discrepancy in body build in the two disorders which is similar to that between early- and late-maturing individuals. The marked rise in manic–depressive psychoses and decline in schizophrenia, particularly the non-paranoid categories, accompanying the decline in mean pubertal age by some four years during the past hundred years are taken as evidence that manic–depressive psychosis affects early maturers and schizophrenia particularly affects late maturers. Gender differences and social differentials accord with this theory. Redundancy of neuronal synapses characterises manic-depressive psychosis, and reduced density of synapses is a characteristic of schizophrenia, whereas ‘normality’, with optimal synaptic density, is in between.

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Copyright
Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists 1989 

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