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Discuss biological explanations of schizophrenia

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'Research into schizophrenia shows that there is a major genetic component but the fact that concordance rates between identical twins is never 100% means that there must be environmental contributions.' Discuss biological explanations of schizophrenia. (30 marks) Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder involving the loss of contact with reality and a range of symptoms. There is considerable evidence that genetic factors are involved. This view considers that certain individuals possess certain genes which predispose them to schizophrenia. This means that it is inherited and we would expect to find that relatives have similar chances of developing the disorder. ...read more.


in monozygotic twins than in dizygotic. However if schizophrenia was solely caused by genes then we would expect a 100% concordance in monozygotic twins. Since this is not found then other factors must play a part. Mz twin studies have the advantage of controlling for genetics but the disadvantage of not controlling for environment. One way to get around this is to study mz twins that were raised apart. Twin studies show similar concordance rates even when they have been reared apart, however the samples use din these studies are usually very small and family problems may have been the reason for separation. ...read more.


Research on amphetamines supports this because they increase the dopamine levels and have been found to worsen schizophrenic symptoms. One study found that rats which had been given amphetamines displayed schizophrenic-type behaviour, though there is no reason to believe that humans react the same way as rats. It has also been found that those drugs that reduce dopamine (antipsychotic drugs). Also reduce schizophrenic symptoms. However, this tends to be correlational and we can't know if dopamine levels cause schizophrenia or schizophrenia causes high dopamine levels. MRI scans have found that schizophrenics have enlarged ventricles in their brains. Post-mortems have found that the brains of schizophrenics are lighter. This could reflect loss of cells in the brain. ...read more.

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Response to the question

Everything written here is accurate and nicely presented, with strong evidence to support the ideas proposed by the candidate and a clear indication of high levels of research and revision conducted in order to fortify the answers with the best ...

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Response to the question

Everything written here is accurate and nicely presented, with strong evidence to support the ideas proposed by the candidate and a clear indication of high levels of research and revision conducted in order to fortify the answers with the best points and analysis possible. My only quandary is that it's a little on the short side for an answer expecting 30 marks. Whilst I'm unsure of the mark scheme, the question states plural "explanations" of schizophrenia, and so the candidate has been asked for two. The candidate provides two, though it is unclear whether one stems from the other as an extension of one idea or whether the candidate intends for genetic inter-generational transmission and dopamine levels to be considered as two different biological explanations. Where I would advise the candidate here is to provide a very clearly separate theory, such as a theory of biological intervention e.g. - a medical procedure on the brain that may have caused some severe mental side-effects, leading to schizophrenic tendencies due to accidental damage to the pre-frontal cortices during operation, or perhaps the disorder could develop as a side-effect of pharmaceutical drug therapy to cure another disorder. These two ideas would've helped the answer not only become naturally longer, but also feel like the candidate was covering a broader range of biological explanations to the disorder.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is excellent. Everything written is clear, precise and well-presented with a good knowledge of the psychology of schizophrenia and how biology can bring the disorder about. The information is accurate and to the point, with clear citations of studies that help provide the candidate with empirical evidence for their ideas. Only minor improvements to the analysis present can be made, such as nailing down the issues with studies of MZ twins that have been raised apart. The candidate goes halfway, realising the potential difficulties due to family issues and extremely low numbers of samples that fit the criteria, but if they mentioned how, specifically, ethical issues arise and which ones cause the most trouble to psychologists then this would really solidify the point here. Other than that, the answer is fine enough, but to make the alterations outlined above in Response to the Question would guarantee the A grade this candidate is capable of.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is good throughout. There is a good control shown over the handling of psychological terminology and Standard English. There is no cause for concern with regard to the candidate's spelling, punctuation or grammar.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 04/09/2012

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