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Letter to the Editor
News Writing Limitations
Psychiatric News
Volume 37 Number 5 page 36-36

The article in the November 16 issue on the study by Paul Thompson, Ph.D., and coworkers headed "Imaging Studies Document Schizophrenia’s Devastation" quotes Thompson as follows: "Wouldn’t it be intriguing if schizophrenia were a disorder of teenage brain development? After all, it hits in the late teens or early 20s, and nobody knows the cause. The fact that normal teens lose some gray matter leads to the theory that this process could be sped up, or abnormal in schizophrenia. The genes that regulate the process could be altered. . . ."

The report appears to present these as new ideas. Each of these points was explicitly made in a paper written nearly two decades ago by Irwin Feinberg titled "Schizophrenia: Caused by a Fault in Programmed Synaptic Elimination During Adolescence?" It appeared in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, which is appropriately cited in Thompson’s paper. Feinberg’s paper led to a reconceptualization of schizophrenia as a neurodevelopment disease, and it continues to inspire researchers in basic and clinical neuroscience. One recognizes that journalistic reports must often take shortcuts, but it is hoped not at the cost of distorting the scholarly record. Appropriate acknowledgement of prior work and ideas is not an option but an ethical requirement in science and, one hopes, in science writing.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Rosenlicht raises an interesting point. The focus of this story was on the use of MRI scans to study the effects of schizophrenia on the gray matter of teenagers over a five-year period. The quote that Dr. Rosenlicht cites above was part of the discussion of the findings being presented in the article. His comments, however, give me an opportunity to point out that because of space and time limitations and style consistent with a newspaper format, news articles generally report on just that—what’s new or newly interesting. We do try to include a wider breadth of background information, including relevant research reports, in articles that are written to present an overview of a particular topic.

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