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James Brody December 3rd, 2008 12:11 PM

Badcock: A New Split Brain
There are whispers of a fifth edition for psychiatry's Bible, the DSM. They should probably cease efforts and read some of Christopher Badcock's thoughts. That is, Burt and Trivers (2006) had an insightful summary of the differing effects of maternal- and paternal-imprints in certain genes. Earlier this year, I explored some of these ideas in Rebellion as they apply to the phenomena called K- and r-selection and how settled or unsettled environments bias occupants for conservation and stability or for exploration and rapid use of resources. (Many events that characterize modern America are consistent with a K-selected situation under challenge by r-selected invaders!)
An English sociologist, Christopher Badcock, began at a similar point but followed a different path, reclassifying human mental disorders by opposing male-related traits to female-related ones and anchoring the model to an Aspergers and a psychotic spectrum.

There are many implications...

From Badcock: "According to the so-called imprinted brain theory, the paradoxes can be explained in terms of the expression of genes, and not simply their inheritance. Imprinted genes are those which are only expressed when they are inherited from one parent rather than the other. The classic example is IGF2, a growth factor gene only normally expressed when inherited from the father, but silent when inherited from the mother. According to the most widely-accepted theory, genes like IGF2 are silenced by mammalian mothers because only the mother has to pay the costs associated with gestating and giving birth to a large offspring. The father, on the other hand, gets all the benefit of larger offspring, but pays none of the costs. Therefore his copy is activated. The symbolism of a tug-of-war represents the mother's genetic self-interest in countering the growth-enhancing demands of the father's genes expressed in the foetus—the mother, after all, has to gestate and give birth to the baby at enormous cost to herself."

So much for the basic idea. Lots more and worth careful attention at Http://

Background: "In 2006 Bernard Crespi (Killam Research Professor in the Department of Biosciences, Simon Fraser University) and I published a paper in The Journal of Evolutionary Biology setting out the theory in relation to autism. Earlier this year Behavioral and Brain Sciences published a second paper along with 23 expert commentaries and the authors' replies which extends the idea to psychoses like schizophrenia. More recently still, Nature has published our essay on the theory ('Battle of Sexes May Set the Brain, 28August, 2008.'"

See also:
Burt, Austin, & Trivers, Robert (2006) Genes in Conflict: The Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements. Cambridge, MA: Belknap-Harvard.
Haig, D. (2002) Genomic Imprinting and Kinship New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

ToddStark May 2nd, 2009 07:58 AM

"The Imprinted Brain" by Christopher Badcock
Badcock's book about his theory is coming out shortly. It's oddly styled for an introduction of a new theory to a general audience. It's not that it's technically difficult, it's just that there are simply too many assumptions of technical knowledge made for a popular book compared to really good science writing. If you know a little about the syndromes of autism and schizophrenia and a little about genetics and a little about evolutionary explanation, the book reads really well and gets right to the concepts that are unique to the theory, but it doesn't explain the basic concepts at all. That's going to hurt it in the market I think. Plus the fact that Badcock is rather opinionated in spots. Comparing religion and feminism both to psychosis is going to win him some devoted opponents who won't even bother to read the book.

So the book has some presentation challenges but it does give a good sense of the data and observations that drive the theory and a sense of what it might be able to explain. I'm lukewarm about the book itself, but the novelty of and potential of the concepts more than make up for it.

My review.

kind regards,


ToddStark May 11th, 2009 11:33 PM

Re: Badcock: A New Split Brain
The "Mouse Trap" blog on cognitive and developmental psychology had a recent commentary about a Nature article possibly relevant to the Badcock-Crespi theory.

There is a recent article in Nature Neuroscience by Philpot et al regarding how experience-dependent synaptic plasticity is downregulated in Angelmans' syndrome and perhaps in Autism too, as the Ube3a gene involved is implicated in both disorders.

First a little history about Angelman- it is a disorder caused by deletion/lack of a maternally imprinted UBE3a gene in chromosomal region 15q11-q13 . It is typically contrasted with Prader-Willi syndrome which is caused by a paternally imprinted gene malfunction in the same chromosomal region. Christopher Badcock has used this to contrast Autism (related to Angelman) and Psychosis (more common in PWS) to argue that Autism and Psychosis are due to a genomic imprinting tug of war between fathers and mothers genes.

I have written about Badcock's and Crespi's thesis before and how it fits in with my views on Autism and Psychosis; suffice it to say that I am seeing the new study primarily from this prism of Autism and Psychosis dichotomy.

Nature Neuroscience article by Philpot et. al. [PDF]:

Mouse Trap Blog commentary:

James Brody May 12th, 2009 02:13 PM

Re: Badcock: A New Split Brain
Very nice material, Todd.
Many thanks...


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