Discarding Ideology: The Nature/nurture Endgame

By Mohr, Wanda K. | Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, July-September 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Discarding Ideology: The Nature/nurture Endgame


Mohr, Wanda K., Perspectives in Psychiatric Care


TOPIC. The concepts and research that underpin our understanding of how the brain is the organ of the mind.

PURPOSE. To describe the dynamic nature of nervous system functioning and development; to discuss how the nervous system changes anatomically throughout the lifespan; to examine the vital role and interaction of genetics and environment; and to discuss the relationship among the brain, neurotransmission, genes, and psychiatric illness.

SOURCES. Published literature.

CONCLUSIONS. The latest research from the neurosciences lays to rest any suggestion that psychiatric illnesses are psychologically induced.

Search terms: Cartesian dualism, nature, nurture, neurobiology

**********

Despite enormous strides and the virtual explosion in our knowledge about human behavior as a function of the brain and body, authors of nursing texts and articles continue to perpetuate the mind-body dichotomy known as "Cartesian dualism." Discarded concepts of questionable utility, such as Freud's stages of development, continue to clutter our psychiatric-mental health nursing texts, yet discussions of such foundational concepts as neuroplasticity, genetics, and the profound effects that environmental factors can have on the development of the brain have begun to appear only recently in the nursing literature (Boyd, 2002; Mohr, 2002).

This is a rather disconcerting state of affairs for a profession that should be grounded, above all, in science. It is also one to which nursing scholars have repeatedly called our attention (McCabe, 2000; Mohr & Mohr, 2001). It is beyond the scope of this article to analyze the reasons why we, as a subspecialty, cling to the past. Suffice it to reiterate, as others have, that we do so at the peril of becoming extinct. The mind-body debate has been put to rest rather definitively by science. It is abundantly clear that the major conceptual approach of the 21st century to psychiatry has its foundation in molecular biology, and we continue to amass evidence that "mental states" have their representation in brain neuronal anatomy and functioning. A persuasive discussion about the end of Cartesian dualism, and what must replace this perspective in psychiatric nursing, requires us to be conversant with the latest empirical studies of normal development.

This article presents some of the concepts and research that underpin our understanding of how the brain is indeed the organ of the mind. It describes the dynamic nature of nervous system functioning and development, discusses how the nervous system changes anatomically throughout the lifespan, and addresses the vital role and interaction of genetics and environment. It also discusses the relationship among the brain, neurotransmission, genes, and psychiatric illness, and presents evidence from research that should lay to rest suggestions that psychiatric illnesses are "psychologically" induced. As it is not possible to be completely exhaustive on this subject within the constraints of a journal article, the discussion will be necessarily oversimplified. Moreover, research in psychiatry changes our knowledge base rapidly. Some of the concepts discussed in this article may be old news by tomorrow, underscoring the need to remain current.

The Wonderful Human Brain

As the major organ of the nervous system, the brain governs all forms of behavior, which includes the behavior of all major body systems. Moreover, the brain is the starting point for why and how we process all "mental" information--not just cognitive, but interpersonal communications, self-concept, emotional reactivity, personality, learned responses, etc. Research findings have made it abundantly clear that the brain is the organ of the mind, and one of its products is behavior. The brain's production of behavior is roughly analogous to the human heart's pumping of blood or the lung's exchanging of gases. Our brains are what make us human.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Discarding Ideology: The Nature/nurture Endgame
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?