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How Can Schizotypy Inform Schizophrenia Research?

Led by Martin Debbane. Posted on 5 Jul 2015

Martin DebbaneMark LenzenwegerNeus BarrantesVidalUlrich Ettinger David Glahn

On July 6, 2015, SRF hosted a webinar devoted to current thinking about the psychological construct schizotypythe collection of odd or abnormal thoughts and behaviors, sometimes quite mild, that resemble psychosisand its relationship to schizophrenia. Our starting point was the International Lemanic Workshop on Schizotypy, organized by Martin Debbane of the University of Geneva and Christine Mohr of the University of Lausanne, and hosted at the University of Geneva in December 2013, as well as the articles published from the meeting in a supplement to Schizophrenia Bulletin. We invite you to read the overview of the meeting by Debbane, as well as a commentary on the issue from Mark Lenzenweger of the State University of New York at Binghamton and Weill Cornell Medical College.

During our webinar, this researcher was joined by  Neus Barrantes-Vidal of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Ulrich Ettinger of Bonn University, and David Glahn of Yale University.

Thanks to the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and Oxford University Press, publishers of Schizophrenia Bulletin, for providing open access to the articles.

 

Listen to the Webinar

 

Martin Debbane's Presentation

 

Mark Lenzenweger's Presentation

 

Neus Barrantes-Vidal's Presentation

 

Fanfare for a Paean: Comments on a Commentator

by Irving I. Gottesman

Common sense dictates that my marginal comments be shorter than Lenzenweger's paper and as Talmudic as I can muster, drawing on my 47 years of close contact with Paul Everett Meehl (1920-2003). MFL's critical exegesis of the 2013 Swiss conference (Debbane and Mohr, 2015), at times trenchant, benefits from his having produced a must-read book (2010) dealing with schizotypy in the context of experimental psychopathology. We are both fortunate that Meehl had such broad shoulders as a giant of 20th-century psychology that we can both stand on them, offering Boswellian accolades to complement those in Cicchetti and Grove (1991). The latter's compilation of 19 of some 200 of Meehl's Essays on the Practice of Scientific Psychology has the rare added feature of a DVD with a prototypic classroom lecture. All 12 of the Schizophrenia Bulletin papers and the commentator hew in the vicinity of the schizophrenia liability core, as would be expected, in the welcome supplement to the Schizophrenia Bulletin.

 

Six "misconceptions about the Meehl model," together with Figure 2, are worth the price of admission and should be read carefully and without intimidation. :) I feel partly responsible for the strategy and important, very long, caption in the figure and commend it, alongside my figure from the very first SRF online discussion about the role of an endophenotype strategy for understanding the causes and courses of schizophrenia. The two heuristic figures would form the basis of many high-level seminars. I challenge readers to meld the two to make the blend even more heuristic than either alone, and then going one step further by adding a third, dynamic time dimension for both the Latent level and the Manifest level.

 

Explicit in the Lenzenweger figure and in the caption are two of Meehl's favorite constructs, hypocrisia and schizotaxia, both depicted as latent, and closer to genes implicated at the beginning of the causal pathway, and on the way toward schizotypy (latent) and schizotypic disorders (manifest). To my way of thinking, both could be candidate endophenotypes, given techniques to measure them. It is easy to see that there is no causal arrow between any of the observable schizotypes. But there could be. And, to press the point, most of the arrows could be double headed; that is, the causal chain of events can be interrupted and reversed at many points, given possible interventions. An individual may remain schizotypic, never proceeding to schizophrenia (cf. MFL for a 70 percent non-conversion rate), thus the "compensated schizotype" discussed by both Sandor Rado (1890-1972) and Meehl, whom he credits with his own usage of the term.

 

I was fortunate to meet and hear Rado on his visit to Minneapolis (Scher and Davis, 1960) while I was a graduate student. There are informative connections among Meehl, Rado, and an informed genetic orientation toward schizophrenia and schizotypy. Rado was initially a disciple of Freud via his Hungarian countryman Ferenczi (Jameson and Klein, 1969), but escaped Germany to Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in the mid-1930s. It was there that Rado could be influenced by both T. Dobzhansky and F.J. Kallmann to appreciate modern human genetics. As fate would have it, B. Glueck Jr. (1914-1999) received and graduated in psychoanalytic training in Rado's Institute, moving to the psychiatry department at the University of Minnesota in 1952 to become director of research. He became a close colleague of both Meehl and David T. Lykken, one of Meehl's closest colleagues, both of the latter then employed in Glueck's unit. As a byproduct of these events, both Meehl and Lykken received Radovian psychoanalytic training while all three worked together. I can trace Meehl's (and that of other Minnesota graduates in clinical psychology thereafter) fascination and utilization of the schizotypy construct to this history. I would note here, for historians, that Meehl had earlier had psychoanalytic training from the child psychiatrist Hyman Lippman, a classical Freudian analyst who had himself been analyzed in Berlin by no less than Anna Freud. Meehl's private practice of psychotherapy, post-Radovian analysis, became so successful in the treatment of compensated schizotypes, especially among professionals and their spouses, that he became a magnet.

 

But back to our main theme. One of his most brilliant and profound but formally unpublished collection of schizotypy-related ideas can be found on the compendium of his writings maintained by his wife, Leslie J. Yonce. It is called "Memo to D.T. Lykken: Problems of strategy in research on schizotaxia (sic)" (in the category Psychological Measurement). It ran to 127 pages single spaced on a typewriter! He began it in February 1966 and completed it in March 1967. Meehl dictated or hand wrote all of his papers and speeches. The webpage memo is a platinum mine of sometimes rushed thoughts, drawing on a deep well of knowledge and informed, wide-ranging conjectures. The Lykken Memo was circulated in carbon copies to a few of us discussing the schizophrenia construct in a small faculty seminar near his and Lykken's offices; I believe there were six copies, and I received one. In April of 2002, when his vision had deteriorated too much to read ordinary fonts, I convinced both Paul and Leslie to put the Memo on the Yonce-maintained webpage. At that time he wrote to me in an email, "You are free to quote the Lykken memo, making clear what it was & that I would not today accept all of it. Being a semi-Popperian, I do not consider it sinful to invent conjectures that will turn out to be false." Vintage Meehl! On the page you can also find the entire, unpublished Checklist for Schizotypic Signs with its 25 continuously rated features mentioned by MFL.

 

I know that all the authors in the Supplement will benefit and be enriched from dipping into the entire webpage with the added bonus of Meehl's unvarnished and too honest autobiography. I hope my short comment for the SRF will induce many to read the papers as well as to immerse themselves in a Meehlian schizotypy bonanza so that we can all think clearly.

 

References

 

Waller, Yonce, Grove, Faust, and Lenzenweger. A Paul Meehl Reader: Essays on the Practice of Scientific Psychology (Multivariate Applications Series). U of MN Press (v. 1) and Routledge. 2006.

 

Scher, S.C. and Davis, H.R. (Eds.). Out-Patient Treatment of Schizophrenia. New York. Grune and Stratton.

 

Sandor Rado. Adaptational psychodynamics : Motivation and control. Ed. by Jean Jameson, Henriette Klein. New York: Science House. 1969.