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Imaging madness: schizophrenia, brain images, and scientific communication in psychiatry’s biological revolution

Voelker, Jacob (2024) Imaging madness: schizophrenia, brain images, and scientific communication in psychiatry’s biological revolution. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the late twentieth century, a period known as the biological revolution in psychiatry, scientific applications to the field expanded rapidly and mental illnesses were increasingly understood as biological entities rather than moral shortcomings or conflicts of the unconscious. Concurrently, both scientific communication and public opinion about mental illness were shifting. My thesis explores this shift with respect to schizophrenia, which has an especially harmful reputation in the media, and places emphasis on the role of neuroimaging figures in shaping both scientific communication and public perception. I examine what information about schizophrenia was being communicated both between scientists and to the general public before and throughout the biological revolution. I contextualize my analysis with a discussion of visual culture and scientific objectivism, and describe how neuroimaging technology fits into these paradigms. Next, I offer a history of visual representations in psychiatry, demonstrating that interest in capturing images of schizophrenia predates the advent of neuroimages. Finally, I evaluate media sources from throughout the biological revolution that reference schizophrenia and neuroimaging technology to show a transformation in what information was communicated to the public. By investigating the contributions of neuroimaging technology in maintaining a biologically-oriented public perspective of schizophrenia throughout the biological revolution, I intend to comment on the nature of scientific communication and its role in creating and upholding public perceptions and social stigma.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Voelker, Jacobjdv27@pitt.edujdv27
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDietrich, Michaelmrd98@pitt.edumrd98
Committee CoChairMatza, Tomastomas.matza@pitt.edutomas.matza
Committee MemberFuller, Jonathanjpf53@pitt.edujpf53
Committee MemberAndersen,
Date: 22 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 10 April 2024
Approval Date: 22 April 2024
Submission Date: 17 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 119
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: schizophrenia, psychiatry, neuroimaging, stigma, representation
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2024 16:36
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2024 16:36


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