Genes, Memes, Culture, and Mental Illness: Toward an Integrative Model

Genes, Memes, Culture, and Mental Illness: Toward an Integrative Model
Springer | 2010 | ISBN: 1441956700 | 300 pages | File type: PDF | 3.7mb
Memes are bits of information that are replicated and passed on across individuals and generations. Memes arose when the human brain acquired the capacity to imitate others and supplement the genes as a means of providing information to the developing individual. Memes, unlike genes, have evolved rapidly in the course of human history and form the building blocks of culture. Unlike genes, memes can be stored outside of the organism in the form of written language, recordings, and in the digital form that can be replicated and transmitted without intervening human brain, like computer viruses. They imbue the environment of the developing individual with nurturing as well as noxious material, all ready to infect the receptive, plastic brain.

Mental health and illness are the results of interaction among genes and memes that infect the developing individual as elements of culture: family, subculture, and counter-culture. Experiences of stress and nurturance also enter the brain in the form of memes. Many mental illnesses can be conceptualized as a stress-induced exacerbation and recrudescence of dormant noxious memes that infected the individual early in life.

In this book, Hoyle Leigh discusses the concept of genetic and memetic evolution, with emphasis on how mental disorders can arise from the gene-meme interaction. Specific examples of gene-meme interactions resulting in anxiety and depression are discussed, and a new genetic-memetic model for diagnosing mental illness is proposed. Dr. Leigh then offers comprehensive strategies for treatment of mental illness that include broad-spectrum and specific meme-oriented therapies. Following that is a discussion of specific major psychiatric syndromes and their gene and meme-oriented therapies, leading to a final discussion about future challenges in psychiatric memetics.

The book is organized in two major sections. The first, "Genes, Memes, Culture, and the Individual," devotes eight chapters to the nature of biological and environmental inheritance, including characteristics of relatives and characteristics of groups, genes and memes as units of inheritance, evolution of the human brain, imitation as a shortcut to learning, memes as replicators of information, and culture as the repository of meme stores. The second section, "Mental Illness," applies current knowledge about memes to mental illness and psychiatric practice both broadly and in specific clinical contexts. Chapters in this section cover genes and mental illness, the relation between stress and memetic infusion ("vulnerable brain"), the genetic-memetic model of mental illness, a diagnostic scheme for a memetic multiaxial model of mental illness, memetic diagnosis, memetic therapies, memetic prevention, and specific mental syndromes such as anxiety, depression, bipolarity, OCD, psychosis, and substance abuse.

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