Psychobiology of Mental Illness Revision.

sorts of things you should probably know 

  • Discuss and evaluate the various psychobiological accounts of mental illness  (i.e. their contribution to an understanding of aetiology, challenges of diagnosis, disorder modelling and symptomatology)
  • Understand and examine the contribution of the psychobiological approach to intervention /treatment
  • Independently research and critically explore key relevant examples (principally Schizophrenia and Depression)


typical exam questions

1) What are the different biological accounts of psychopathology, and what EVIDENCE is there to support them?

2) What is the contribution of psychobiology to an understanding of psychopathology?

3) Does psychobiology help to inform understanding of aetiology (cause) and treatment?

4) Critically evaluate the contribution of the psychobiological approach to an understanding of psychopathology.

5) Can psychobiological explanations adequately explain mental illness?

6) What does the study of psychopathology reveal about the value of taking a biological approach to behaviour? Critically explore, using evidence and perspectives relevant to psychobiology.

7) ‘The key shortcoming of the biological approach to psychopathology is that it lacks applicability outside the laboratory.’ Critically assess this remark, using evidence and perspectives relevant to psychobiology.

8) Outline and discuss the patterns of inheritance and candidate genes for mood disorders.


multiple choice and quizzes



  1. define psychopathology, psychiatry and mental illness (p2) 
  2. what are the 2 major taxonomies/ classifications of mental health?
  3. name some of the 6 paradigms in psychopathology (p3) 
  4. what are the difficulties of categorisation of schiz? (p6)
  5. what is rough concordance rate for schiz for mz & dz twins?
  6. how did Bleuler define schiz? (p5) 
  7. what are some symptoms of schiz?
  8. in brief, what is the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schiz? p7 
  9. what is one observed prenatal factor for schiz (Sham)?
  10. in brief, what is the diathesis stress model as regards schiz?
  11. what were the early antipsychotic drugs & side effects? (p8) 
  12. what was the evidence for the DA hypothesis? (p9) 
  13. how to antipsychotic drugs work?
  14. how did carlsson & lindqvist revise the DA hypothesis?
  15. put these in order of d2 receptor binding & potency: haloperidol, chlorpromazine, spiroperidol 
  16. name 4 problems with the DA hypothesis 
  17. what neuroanatomical irregularities do we find with schiz? 11&12 
  18. What are the 2 main mood disorders in the DSM and describe them (p13) 
  19. depression is more common in which groups? (p.14) 
  20. what is concordance rate for MZ & DZ twins for depression? 
  21. which genes are likely involved in depression? 
  22. name 3 monoamine NTs
  23. name 3 classes of antidepressants (p15)
  24. how do monoamine oxidase inhibitors work?
  25. what was the drawback?
  26. name a moai
  27. how do tricyclic antidepressants work?
  28. name one
  29. how do SSRIs work and name one
  30. what is the monoamine theory of depression (Stahl)? 
  31. why might there be a time lag for antidepressants?  
  32. what brain areas implicated in depression & how (e.g. over/underactivity)? 
  33. how can that pattern cause depression (Davidson)? (p18) 
  34. what is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) theory of depression & evidence?
  35. What paradigm does it belong to? 


essay plan

6) What does the study of psychopathology reveal about the value of taking a biological approach to behaviour? Critically explore, using evidence and perspectives relevant to psychobiology.

psychobiology is study of bio basis of mental & behavioural phenomena

study of psychopathology gives insights into psychobiology

psychopathology is X

there’s debate whether psychobiology understands the causes of psychopathology and therefore its usefulness

researchers some emphasise the role of env over biology & vice versa along a continuum

surely though our biology has a role? question is about our understanding of the psychobiology of many phenomena

theories exist, but effectiveness of treatments (away from lab) is real test of usefulness

studies into psychobio causes of schiz is an example

schiz is X

general schiz facts & distribution etc; not a social construction because it’s universal

strong indication that basis is biological – inheritance, rates of occurrence

DA hypothesis was leading psychobio explanation of schiz

support for hypoth

critiques of DA hypoth

depression is another case in point

depression is X

here like schiz there’s the leading explanation – monoamine theory

support for theory e.g. drugs


also strong crit from moncrieff

prognosis for schiz the worst of all disorders – damning: we don’t know bio basis & workings

so psychobiology limited contribution to explanation

diathesis stress alternative psychobio explanation but has critics

role of environment increasingly emphasised – shows psychobio not full answer?

alternatives and how they answer the question or say other explanations are (more) useful

(are there cases from elsewhere/ inc. not psychopathology where it’s useful?)

hopeful study by Howes but more research req


concerns about the value of psychobio research, esp moncrieff who thinks we should do X

approach via DA hyp & d2 binding has brought relief to schiz patients so useful

but it’s not whole answer.

A good psychobio account (mightve been a way to start but its also good here):

– Can we specify the underlying processes? doubtful

– Does our knowledge of the underlying processes have any useful application in treatment, prevention? yes – DA helps

– Does the biological approach help in these respects? to some degree

Howes recent breakthrough may explain bio basis & imaging tech helping, but dev of treatment & prevention & further research will tell