The Oxford Loebel Lectures and Research Programme (OLLRP) seeks to address the shortcomings of a unilinear approach to mental illness that comes from focussing uniquely on the biological, psychological or social contributions, functioning independently. Instead, the Programme will work towards delineating the nature and magnitude of biopsychosocial interactions in the causation, evaluation and management of mental states, normal and abnormal (e.g. how the gene interacts with the environment), going beyond a simple checklist of contributing factors to arrive at an understanding of how the interactions between factors affect one other, and indeed configure the whole.
Research Focus and Question
We will initially identify key areas and examples of existing work where BPS factors have been assessed and are beginning to be understood e.g. MAO-A status, abuse and criminal behaviour, early deprivation of maternal bonding behaviour and the effects of this on brain development, early life stress, genotype expression of neurotransmitters and the propensity for development of depression in later years, and relapse in schizophrenia as a function of the psycho-social setting. We will use these individual cases to develop a broader conceptual understanding of the BPS approach. Philosophical analyses needed to clarify these considerations will entail a move beyond mental illness into an understanding of BPS contributions to areas such as consciousness and free will.
To build an educational and research agenda with the interplay of at least two of the BPS factors considered together, to be built on further in the future, leading to an understanding of how the 3 factors acting together affect the causes and treatments of mental illness. For this purpose the method will be to:
- Present the most recent and fundamental advances in integration between biology, psychology and sociology
- In addition, to facilitate the interchange of ideas between each of these disciplines and germane others by providing social opportunities for exchanges, as well as blogs and other internet based media
- Provide concomitant critical philosophical examination of related concepts
- Delineate the nature of the final product and how it might be put into practice and taught
- Valid Clinical Outcome: a theoretical foundation of practice
- Predictive value and Prophylaxis
Once these advances are recognized and widely employed, 21st Century medicine should be able to provide care-giving with better understanding of the mechanisms at work, treat with greater efficacy, enhance individual function and provide more effective prevention. We look to an outcome of improved patient care, satisfaction and, not least, concomitant financial savings.