Pharmacological Interventions and the Neurobiological Basis of Mental Disorders

In Ioan Opris & Manuel F. Casanova (eds.), The Physics of the Mind and Brain Disorders: Integrated Neural Circuits Supporting the Emergence of Mind. Cham: Springer. pp. 613-628 (2017)
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In psychiatry, pharmacological research has played a crucial role in the formulation, revision, and refinement of neurobiological theories of psychopathology. Besides being utilized as potential treatments for various mental disorders, pharmacological drugs play an important epistemic role as experimental instruments that help scientists uncover the neurobiological underpinnings of mental disorders (Tsou, 2012). Interventions with psychiatric patients using pharmacological drugs provide researchers with information about the neurobiological causes of mental disorders that cannot be obtained in other ways. This important source of evidence for the biological causes of mental disorder is often overlooked in philosophical analyses of psychiatry, especially in skeptical analyses that debase the biological aspects of psychopathology (e.g., Szasz, 1960; Scheff, 1963; Laing, 1967). In discussing pharmacological interventions as a form of evidence for the physical basis of mental disorders, this paper aims to clarify the nature, reliability, and limitations of this evidence. In addition, it illustrates the central role that pharmacological findings in applied clinical contexts play in the acquisition of neurobiological knowledge in research contexts.

Author's Profile

Jonathan Y. Tsou
University of Texas at Dallas


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