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Hardcover | $35.00 Short | £27.95 | 224 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 35 b&w illus. | September 2017 | ISBN: 9780262036894
eBook | $24.00 Short | October 2017 | ISBN: 9780262342834
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A New Understanding of Mental Disorders

Computational Models for Dimensional Psychiatry


Even as researchers look for neurobiological correlates of mental disorders, many of these disorders are still classified solely according to the manifestation of clinical symptoms. Neurobiological findings rarely help diagnose a specific disease or predict its outcome. Although current diagnostic categories are questionable (sometimes labeling common states of human suffering as disorders), traditional neuroimaging approaches are not sophisticated enough to capture the neurobiological markers of mental disorder. In this book, Andreas Heinz proposes a computational and dimensional approach to understanding and classifying mental disorders: modeling key learning and decision-making mechanisms across different mental disorders. Such an approach focuses on the malleability and diversity of human behavior and its biological underpinnings.

Heinz explains basic learning mechanisms and their effects on human behavior, focusing not on single disorders but on how such mechanisms work in a multitude of mental states. For example, he traces alterations in dopamine-reinforcement learning in psychotic, affective, and addictive disorders. He investigates to what extent these basic dimensions of mental disorders can account for such syndromes as craving and loss of control in addiction, positive and negative mood states in affective disorders, and the altered experience of self and world associated with psychotic states. Finally, Heinz explores the clinical and therapeutic implications of such accounts. He argues that a focus on learning mechanisms, with its emphasis on human creativity and resilience, should help reduce the stigma of mental disorder.

About the Author

Andreas Heinz is Director and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Charité— Universitätsmedizin Berlin.


“In this book Andreas Heinz captures a paradigm shift in psychiatric research as it is unfolding. He makes the fundamental principles of this development accessible to the reader by providing valuable examples that describe its potential to improve lives of people who suffer from mental illness.”
Gunter Schumann, Chair in Biological Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London
“Psychiatry struggles to balance intuition and knowledge about human behavior. Its diagnostic categories are conventions that enable clinical work to progress in the absence of precise knowledge of the causes of psychiatric disorders. In A New Understanding of Mental Disorders, Andreas Heinz presents a deep and synthetic treatise that articulates a path forward for a field struggling to secure its scientific foundations. A new psychiatry is emerging and Heinz’s book is recommended to those who wish to better understand the future of this field.”
John H. Krystal, M.D., Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Professor; Chair, Yale Department of Psychiatry