New Book: A Brother Finds Answers in Biology

Why does schizophrenia flare up in families?

The answers are mostly biological. Schizophrenia is a disease rooted in human biology—and as heritable as human height, as it turns out—so who better to guide that discussion than a biologist whose own brother struggled?

Ronald Chase, a professor emeritus of biology at McGill University, gravitated toward biology seeking to fathom the fundamental nature of the lifelong schizophrenia that developed in his older brother Jim in college.

Chase narrates the family’s tale as a brother and biologist in alternating chapters of Schizophrenia: A Brother Finds Answers in Biological Science, an accessible read that crosses the gulf between scientist and ordinary family member.

The personal side of the story, which takes place over fifty years, makes an indelible impression. If intellectually-gifted older brother Jim never recovers from his onset at UCLA, then the younger brother Ronald makes his life count for something special in the mission of biological discovery he goes on.

What Dr. Chase produces is a rare combination of family memoir and accessible explanation of the neuroscience, genetics, and the epidemiology of schizophrenia. I simply love this book.

1 Like

Here is the book on Amazon:

When bright lives are derailed by schizophrenia, bewildered and anxious families struggle to help, and to cope, even as scientists search for causes and treatments that prove elusive. Painful and often misunderstood, schizophrenia profoundly affects people who have the disease and their loved ones. Here Ronald Chase, an accomplished biologist, sets out to discover the facts about the disease and better understand what happened to his older brother, Jim, who developed schizophrenia as a young adult.

Chase’s account alternates between a fiercely loyal and honest memoir and rigorous scientific exploration. He finds scientific answers to deeply personal questions about the course of his brother’s illness. He describes psychiatric practice from the 1950s—when electroconvulsive shock therapy was common and the use of antipsychotic medications was in its infancy—to the development of newer treatments in the 1990s. Current medical and scientific research increases our understanding of genetic and environmental causes of the disease.

Chase also explores the stigma of mental illness, the evolution of schizophrenia, the paradox of its persistence despite low reproduction rates in persons with the disease, and the human stories behind death statistics. With the author’s intimate knowledge of the suffering caused by this disease, Schizophrenia emphasizes research strategies, the importance of sound scientific approaches, and the challenges that remain.