An intriguing debate (PDF) over whether schizophrenia is a uniquely modern disease. Given the ailment’s genetic origins, Microkhan has long assumed that it’s been with our species since time immemorial. But based on their examination from 15th-century Islamic medical textbooks, a pair of South Carolina doctors disagree:
Serefeddin Sabuncuoglu (1385-1470) was a general physician who practiced during the 15th century in central Anatolia, which is now Turkey. Written in Turkish with Sabuncuoglu’s own calligraphy, Cerrahiyyetu’l-Haniyye (Imperial Surgery) is the first known illustrated textbook of surgery and contains colored, handmade miniatures of surgical techniques and instruments (6, 7). The book contains Sabuncuoglu’s
descriptions of numerous medical conditions and their treatments. Several neurological conditions, including migraine headaches, epilepsy, and tremor are described. The psychiatric conditions described are melancholy (mal-i hulya) and forgetfulness (unutsaguluk). We have carefully reviewed each illustration of Sabuncuoglu’s masterpiece and report that a description of a condition that resembles schizophrenia is not present.
In the rebuttal, it is claimed that schizophrenics may have been shunted into “hospital-villages” where they were essentially forgotten.
More on the search for schizophrenica’s genetic origins here. Microkhan is struck by the apparent link between the increasing complexity of modern life and the rise in schizophrenia diagnoses. Might environmental stress somehow “switch on” a genetic mechanism that creates paranoia and delusion?