Solving the Puzzle of Schizophrenia: Jewish Paranoia

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By Maria Tsepilovan
Clinical Research Coordinator, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

My friend Peter was the star athlete in our high school. Not only could he score a touchdown, but he was an 'A' student who could win a debate with just about anyone, including his teachers. Peter graduated at the top of our class and entered a prestigious pre-law program at an Ivy League University. During his sophomore year Peter began to change. He stopped socializing with his friends, his grades began slipping, and he spent more and more time alone in his room.

One day near the end of the school year Peter was hospitalized and shortly thereafter diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was never the same again. I can no longer have a coherent conversation with Peter; he jumps from topic to topic and I don't know what he's talking about. He is also paranoid. Peter insists on sitting against the wall in any public place we go to ensure that no one will creep up behind him. He thinks the FBI is monitoring his every move.

Peter's life is changed forever. Why him? Why now?

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that lasts for a minimum of 6 months and is characterized by at least one month of symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, disorganized speech, and negative affect (lack of emotion). The illness can come on without warning and generally first appears in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Researchers have been seeking the cause of schizophrenia for decades. There has been some controversy over whether a person's genetics or environment plays a larger role in its development. The field has reached a tentative hypothesis: the illness is both genetic and environmental. This means enough studies have been done to suggest that there are specific genes that make a person more susceptible to developing schizophrenia and certain environmental factors that may trigger that development.

What are the genes responsible for schizophrenia and what sort of environmental factors trigger the onset of the disease?

Environmental factors, in this case, can mean any type of stressor that one encounters in utero or throughout one's life (i.e. a relationship breakup, mixed signals from parents, stress at work, etc.).

The genetic part is trickier. Genetic variation among individuals, let alone North Americans with diverse descendants creates much difficulty in isolating specific genes responsible for disorders. After years of genetic research, scientists have identified many genes in the human body as potentially being associated with the onset of schizophrenia. Some researchers at Johns Hopkins University began to question these findings, insisting they could pinpoint key locations on specific chromosomes that cause the illness.

With the problem of genetic variety within a population in mind, researchers at Johns Hopkins decided to narrow the genetic pool in their study. They were looking for a pool of genetically similar people, a group that had originated from one ancestor and then, for generations, married within their own culture. Hopkins hypothesized that gathering these individuals would more easily allow researchers to compare DNA and locate genes that are similar in people diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In 1996, with a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins began recruiting Ashkenazi Jews who were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Jews are no more likely to develop this illness; schizophrenia appears in about 1% of the world's population and doesn't seem to be prominent in any one group. The reason why this study is focused specifically on Jews stems from the Jewish tradition of marrying within the group. This makes the genetic trail easier to follow. After ten years of research, the Johns Hopkins group has gathered over 1,000 such individuals for their study and published preliminary results in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

What does this mean for us? Anyone can develop Schizophrenia. We know it is partially genetic. If we can detect its presence early on, we can better identify what precautions might be taken so that symptoms are less severe when they appear or prevent them altogether. We can develop medications better tailored to affected individuals. Ultimately, better understanding the causes of schizophrenia will enable us to make a huge difference for the Peters of the world who now face agony and shock when, at the age of 20, they suddenly develop Schizophrenia.

Johns Hopkins has teamed up with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to continue this promising research. They are currently recruiting individuals in the New York area who are diagnosed with Schizophrenia and are Ashkenazi Jewish. Spread the word. And let us take a moment to count our blessings.

For more information on the current study, please contact Maria Tsepilovan at (212)659-5661

Why Study Ashkenazim?

How Jewish Participants Are Especially Able to Help Researchers Understand Mental Illness Genetics

Jewish individuals are in a unique position to assist scientists in the understanding of genetic disorders. Due to a long history of marriage within the faith, which extends back thousands of years, the Jewish community has emerged from a limited number of ancestors and has a similar genetic makeup. This allows researchers to more easily perform genetic studies and locate disease-causing genes.

The following slides provide a graphic representation of variation. Due to the history of marriage within the faith, individuals of Jewish descent have less variety in their genetic makeup. This reduction in variability makes it easier for us to locate disease-causing genes.

Schizophrenia Research and The Jews

In the late 1990s the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University placed an advertisement in a number of newspapers, including this one, recruiting Jewish research subjects. The ad read: “Ashkenazi Jewish families are needed to help scientists understand the biological basis for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.” Now a new study recruiting schizophrenia patients in northern New Jersey is seeking volunteers. Although that study is recruiting from the Jewish community as well as the general population (see related story), past studies have targeted Jewish populations, in particular Ashkenazi Jews. Has this occurred because Jews are more likely to suffer from mental illness than other groups? Scientific research has not supported this notion; experts estimate the incidence of schizophrenia in the Ashkenazi Jewish population to be no higher than that of the general population (about one percent).

Why would scientists be so interested in studying mental illness in Jewish groups? Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder that is thought to occur as a result of the interaction of multiple genetic factors and environmental factors. One way the genetic contribution has been analyzed is by using twin studies, which reveal that identical twins — who share all their genes — have significantly higher concordance for schizophrenia (i.e., where both have the disease) than do fraternal twins (who share about 50 percent of their genes). That outcome supports the idea that schizophrenia has a significant genetic basis.

On its Website, the Johns Hopkins program explained its justification for using Jewish populations. “Due to a long history of marriage within the faith, which extends back thousands of years, the Jewish community has emerged from a limited number of ancestors and has a similar genetic makeup. This allows researchers to more easily perform genetic studies and locate disease-causing genes.” Thus, disease genes may be easier to identify in a more homogeneous genetic population. Ashkenazi Jews have served as a very convenient and generally willing group for research studies. In addition, since it is a fairly homogeneous group, the Ashkenazi population is useful for studies on other aspects of schizophrenia, such as response to, and efficacy of, psychiatric drugs.

It is important to remember that schizophrenia is not determined only by genetic factors. Environmental factors can play an important role in triggering the disease. They can include obstetric complications, infections, substance abuse, and social adversity. Schizophrenia is also hard to study since its diagnosis is often complex. There is no single symptom or disease-specific marker that permits clear diagnosis. There is also considerable variability in the mode and extent that schizophrenia is expressed in patients.

Dr. Ann Pulver, of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, has conducted research on the genetics of schizophrenia over many years and has published numerous papers pertaining to the genetic factors involved in the disease. Every person inherits tens of thousands of genes from his or her parents and those genes contain chemical instructions for development and physical makeup, determining an individual’s functioning, health, and predisposition to disease. The instructions, encoded in DNA, are located on the 23 pairs of chromosomes — the microscopic genetic packages found in every cell of the body.

Pulver’s group and other scientific collaborators have identified some genetic markers that are associated with mental disease. For instance, they discovered that on chromosomes 1, 3, 6, 8, 11, 12, and 18 there are sites that may be associated with bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder. Pulver’s research also showed that chromosomes 10 and 22 harbor candidates for schizophrenia-susceptibility genes that may increase a person’s chance of developing the disease.

The brain is an incredibly complex organ, hence it is no surprise that the genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia appear to be complex, and that researchers have not identified a single specific gene that causes the disease. In order to analyze the data from the many scientists working on this problem, a centralized Website (http://www.schizophreniaforum.org) was developed to catalogue the numerous studies and try to make sense of conflicting data. The goal of the Website is to serve as a central repository for data on the genetics of schizophrenia, provide the opportunity to determine which studies are consistent with one another, and reconcile studies that have conflicting results.

In more than 1,400 studies, scientists have reported on an astounding 761 genes that may be associated with a predisposition to schizophrenia. The Website lists the top 29 genes and reports which studies found a link between a gene and the disease and which studies found no link. Some of the genes listed include: DISC1 (“disrupted in schizophrenia” 1), located on chromosome 1; GABRB2 (a gene for a brain protein that binds neurotransmitters) on chromosome 5; and DRD2 (a dopamine receptor gene) on chromosome 11.

One example of conflicting research results pertains to the COMT gene, which produces an important brain enzyme. Studies by Israeli researchers at Hebrew University, together with scientists at the pharmaceutical company IDgene, suggested that a variant of the COMT gene, located on chromosome 22, was linked to schizophrenia in Ashkenazi Jews. But a group of British researchers failed to find this link in the two groups they studied: Ashkenazi Jews and Irish subjects. Thus the significance of COMT in development of schizophrenia is still unresolved.

A 2008 study published by collaborating scientists from Israel, England, China, Ireland, and the United States suggested RELN, the reelin gene, as a new candidate for a schizophrenia gene. The study showed that a variant of reelin, a gene known to have a role in brain development, is associated with higher incidence of schizophrenia in females. It is not clear why there would be a link between this gene and schizophrenia in women but not in men. The authors acknowledge that “despite the relatively large heritability of schizophrenia, efforts to identify the molecular risk factor have so far yielded equivocal results.”

Pulver reports that these types of studies are critical to gain better understanding of the disease and to find more effective treatments. She pointed out one flaw in past research projects that should be addressed and remedied: “The majority of people coming into our study are men,” she said. “Men are over-represented in our studies; it’s 3 to 1, men to women.”

“This has great implications for females in clinical studies,” explained Pulver, who encourages women to participate in clinical trials. Many studies of drugs, for instance, can reveal which drug had the fewest negative consequences and the best responses. Those studies are mainly based on male subjects. “But men and women are different,” said Pulver. “We need to identify more Ashkenazi Jewish women with schizophrenia. These studies are the highest priority right now.”

Yeshiva University Prof. Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a medical ethicist, has taken a dim view of studies that focus only on Ashkenazi Jews. He has stated that genetic studies will reawaken the idea that “Jews carry genes that are polluting the world. That’s the basis of eugenics. If you have a ‘disease’ gene, don’t you owe it to society not to propagate that gene?”

The use of Jewish subjects in many genetic research studies may have added to anti-Semitic notions concerning mental illness in Jews, and some of those heinous ideas are expressed on anti-Jewish sites on the Web. For instance, a writer on Mid-East Realities (http://www.middleeast.org) claims that Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker (Richard Nixon’s longtime psychiatrist) believed that Jews are “carriers of schizophrenia” and display paranoia, aggressiveness, and racism.

Although concerns have been voiced about research studies leading to the stigmatizing of Jews, clearly there are tremendous benefits reaped from studies that are carefully designed and carried out. When scientists have access to research subjects and are able to scientifically test new drugs and other treatments, there are potential benefits to participants as well as to society as a whole. The underlying causes of schizophrenia will be understood only after careful study, data collection, analysis, and scrutiny in many different populations of affected individuals, including Jews.

http://www.jstandard.com/index.php/content/item/6843/

Is Mental Illness the Jewish Disease?

The article below was NOT written by anyone at EnCognitive.com nor does it reflect the views of EnCognitive.com.

Physician Claims Jews are Schizo Carriers

The article was from Psychiatric News, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Date of publication: Oct. 25, 1972.

Evidence that Jews are carriers of schizophrenia is disclosed in a paper prepared for the American Journal of Psychiatry by Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker [a Jew], the New York psychiatrist who once treated President Nixon.

In a study entitled 'Mental Illness: The Jewish Disease' Dr. Hutschnecker said that although all Jews are not mentally ill, mental illness is highly contagious and Jews are the principal sources of infection.

Dr. Hutschnecker stated that every Jew is born with the seeds of schizophrenia and it is this fact that accounts for the world-wide persecution of Jews.

'The world would be more compassionate toward the Jews if it was generally realized that Jews are not responsible for their condition.' Dr. Hutschnecker said. 'Schizophrenia is the fact that creates in Jews a compulsive desire for persecution.'

Dr. Hutschnecker pointed out that mental illness peculiar to Jews is manifested by their inability to differentiate between right and wrong. He said that, although Jewish canonical law recognizes the virtues of patience, humility and integrity, Jews are aggressive, vindictive and dishonest.

'While Jews attack non-Jewish Americans for racism, Israel is the most racist country in the world,' Dr. Hutschnecker said.

Jews, according to Dr. Hutschnecker, display their mental illness through their paranoia. He explained that the paranoiac not only imagines that he is being persecuted but deliberately creates situations which will make persecution a reality.

Dr. Hutschnecker said that all a person need do to see Jewish paranoia in action is to ride on the New York subway. Nine times out of ten, he said, the one who pushes you out of the way will be a Jew.

'The Jew hopes you will retaliate in kind and when you do he can tell himself you are anti-Semitic.'

During World War II, Dr. Hutschnecker said, Jewish leaders in England and the United States knew about the terrible massacre of the Jews by the Nazis. But, he stated, when State Department officials wanted to speak out against the massacre, they were silenced by organized Jewry. Organized Jewry, he said, wanted the massacre to continue in order to arouse the world's sympathy.

Dr. Hutschnecker likened the Jewish need to be persecuted to the kind of insanity where the afflicted person mutilates himself. He said that those who mutilate themselves do so because they want sympathy for themselves. But, he added, such persons reveal their insanity by disfiguring themselves in such a way as to arouse revulsion rather than sympathy.

Dr. Hutschnecker noted that the incidence of mental illness has increased in the United States in direct proportion to the increase in the Jewish population.

'The great Jewish migration to the United States began at the end of the nineteenth century,' Dr. Hutschnecker said. 'In 1900 there were 1,058,135 Jews in the United States; in 1970 there were 5,868,555; an increase of 454.8%. In 1900 there were 62,112 persons confined in public mental hospitals in the United States; in 1970 there were 339,027, in increase of 445.7%. In the same period the U.S. population rose from 76,212,368 to 203,211,926, an increase of 166.6%. Prior to the influx of Jews from Europe the United States was a mentally healthy nation. But this is no longer true.'

Dr. Hutschnecker substantiated his claim that the United States was no longer a mentally healthy nation by quoting Dr. David Rosenthal, chief of the laboratory of psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health, who recently estimated that more than 60,000,000 people in the United States suffer from some form of 'schizophrenic spectrum disorder.' Noting that Dr. Rosenthal is Jewish, Dr. Hutschnecker said that Jews seem to take a perverse pride in the spread of mental illness.

Dr. Hutschnecker said that the word 'schizophrenia' was given to mental disease by dr. Eugen Blueler, a Swiss psychiatrist, in 1911. Prior to that time it had been known as 'dementia praecox,' the name used by its discoverer, Dr. Emil Kraepelin. Later, according to Dr. Hutschnecker, the same disease was given the name 'neurosis' by Dr. Sigmund Freud.

'The symptoms of schizophrenia were recognized almost simultaneously by Bleuler, Kraepelin and Freud at a time when Jews were moving into the affluent middle class,' Dr. Hutschnecker said. 'Previously they had been ignored as a social and racial entity by the physicians of that era. They became clinically important when they began to intermingle with non-Jews.'

Dr. Hutschnecker said that research by Dr. Jacques S. Gottlieb of Wayne State University indicates that schizophrenia is caused by deformity in the alpha-two-globulin protein, which in schizophrenics is corkscrew-shaped. The deformed protein is apparently caused by a virus which, Dr. Hutschnecker believes, Jews transmit to non-Jews with whom they come in contact. He said that because those descended from Western European peoples have not built up an immunity to the virus they are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

'There is no doubt in my mind,' Dr. Hutschnecker said, 'that Jews have infected the American people with schizophrenia. Jews are carriers of the disease and it will reach epidemic proportions unless science develops a vaccine to counteract it.'

A Jew learns as part of his sacred Bible and Talmud studies that crimes against Gentiles, such as genocide, mass murder, child abuse etc. are considered holy services to God. The Bible and the Talmud, the holy books of hate, mandating innocent Jewish youngsters to hate, to murder, to deceit, to expel, to rob non-Jews in the name of God. This leaves not only a dent on their mental structure, but turns their soul into a festering spiritual deformity.

They live and work together with non-Jews in communities throughout the world, liking their Gentile neighbours, enjoying their culture and even at times falling in love with members of the Goyim opposite sex. However, because of the strict law and restrictions (based on racial purity) imposed upon them, they are forced to grow up and develop in a world in which they learn the skills of obeying one command and living a double life. The dilemma the ordinary Jew faces, is that he has to obey the Rabbis' interpretation of God's laws. They educated the young minds of the Jewish nation to despise, to subjugate, to look down upon and even to hate the non-Jewish world. Failing to follow these holy commands results, as they are taught, in severe punishment by God. This must result naturally in mental aberration amongst the Jewish community.

Loathsome example-patients of this serious mental illness, that befalls Jews, are America's neo-conservatives who seem to take joy in waging wars in the Middle East.

Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker (a Jew)
American Journal of Psychiatry
Oct. 25, 1972

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