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The Imprinted Brain

Independent Publisher Book Awards, 2010

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781846429507

Price: £24.99

ON SALE: 15th May 2009

Genre: Society & Social Sciences

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The Imprinted Brain sets out a radical new theory of the mind and mental illness based on the recent discovery of genomic imprinting. Imprinted genes are those from one parent that, in that parent’s interest, are expressed in an offspring rather than the diametrically opposed genes from the other parent. For example, a higher birth weight may represent the dominance of the father’s genes in leading to a healthy child, whereas a lower birth weight is beneficial to the mother’s immediate wellbeing, and the imprint of the mother’s genes will result in a smaller baby. According to this view, a win for the father’s genes may result in autism, whereas one for the mother’s may result in psychosis. A state of equilibrium – normality – is the most likely outcome, with a no-win situation of balanced expression. Imprinted genes typically produce symptoms that are opposites of each other, and the author uses psychiatric case material to show how many of the symptoms of psychosis can be shown to be the mental mirror-images of those of autism.

Combining psychiatry with insights from modern genetics and cognitive science, Christopher Badcock explains the fascinating imprinted brain theory to the reader in a thorough but accessible way. This new theory casts some intriguing new light on other topics as diverse as the nature of genius, the appeal of detective fiction, and the successes – and failures – of psychoanalysis.

This thought-provoking book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in autism, psychiatry, cognitive science or psychology in general.


I am deeply indebted to Greig and MacKay: they have demonstrated much better than I ever imagined possible one of the most remarkable possibilities suggested by the diametric model of mental illness. This is that a symptomatic form of psychotic cognition - homuncular thinking - becomes therapeutic when used by autistic children.
Psychology Today
Christopher Badcock's The Imprinted Brain: How Genes Set the Balance Between Autism and Psychosis describes, refreshingly, a psychological theory of psychopathology. In this day and age, the idea seemes almost radical...The central idea is novel and intriguing: Autism and schizophrenia, which people have long recognized as being related in some way, are in fact mirror images of each other. Badcock suggests that there are two broad domains of cognition that are usually so integrated as to appear seamless: cognition about inanimate objects and cognition about people, especially about people's minds.
Drawing on a range of evidence from genetics, evolutionary psychology, brain imaging and psychiatry, Christopher Badcock presents his ambitious theory on the aetiology of autism and schizophrenia and the interconnection between the two...The narrative is clear and engaging, with the chapters on autism especially vivid, filled with personal accounts from famous individuals with autism and Asperger's syndrome.
The British Journal of Psychiatry
Christopher Badcock's The Imprinted Brain: How Genes Set the Balance Between Autism and Pyschosis is a welcome addition to the literature on autism where much of the debate as to origins remains open. This book, however, offers a radical new theory based on the discovery of genomic imprinting...The author does not limit himself and interestingly probes the nature of genius, the appeal of detective fiction and the successes (and failures) of psychoanalysis.
Young Minds
The major theme that Cristopher Badcock puts forward in this book is that autism and psychosis are extremes on a single line of development...There is much of huge value in this book and there is much more to the author's case for the imprinted brain than there is room to mention here (including a fascinating explanation for why autism appears to be increasing and psychosis is declining). It is a compellingly readable work, full of valuable insights, and I heartily recommend it.
Human Givens Journal
Deeply scholarly yet absorbing narrative, The Imprinted Brain will change the way we view the human brain and its functions, evolution, and disordering in mental illness. Badcock has drawn evolutionary biology together with genetics, psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience to demonstrate, for the first time, how genomic conflicts play a central role in how the human brain works, and how the brain becomes dysregulated in social-brain disorders including autism and schizophrenia.
Dr. Bernard Crespi, winner of T. Dobzhansky Prize and E. O. Wilson Award, Evolutionary Biology
During the last 20 years Christopher Badcock has been one of the most creative interpreters of the new ways of thinking about genes, evolution and the human psyche. In The Imprinted Brain he breaks new ground by showing how imprinted genes, genes that act differently depending on whether they are inherited through the maternal or paternal line, can contribute to autism and psychoses. Both theoretical and empirical researchers will be stimulated by the arguments in his new book.
Charles Crawford, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Simon Fraser University
The Imprinted Brain is a true tour de force, surveying the cutting-edge research in genomics and neuroscience and providing a fresh view on what it means to be male or female, "things people" or "people people," autistic or schizophrenic. You will never look at your parents the same way again!.
Satoshi Kanazawa, Reader in Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science, 'The Scientific Fundamentalist', and coauthor of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters
Dr. Badcock has written a fascinating book. His Imprinted Brain theory is already proving to be both testable and important. This is an up-to-date, clearly written, and well sourced presentation of that theory, the evidence that supports it and the implications that these may have both for how we understand mental illness and how we treat it.
Dr. Kenneth J. Aitken, clinical psychologist, LD-CAMHS Service, Glasgow, independent consultant, and author of Dietary Interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders
For anyone with an academic interest in Asperger this book is to be highly recommended. For parents with a scientific background, and an interest in the theoretical, this is a stimulating and scholarly read.
The Imprinted Brain: How Genes Set the Balance Between Autism and Psychosis examines what causes conditions like autism and schizoprenia and offers one of the most exciting contributions to modern psychiatric thinking since Freud. It blends science with psychology to offer insights on the genetic basis of mental disorders - and it proposes a theory for evolution that offers new light on spirituality, homosexuality, and more. Any libray catering to psychiatrists must have this!
The Midwest Book Review