Preface

Over the last decade there has been considerable progress in our understanding of the neurobiological basis of many psychologically related phenomena. Significant research endeavors have been mounting in both basic cellular and animal neuroscience. In terms of human behavioural research in neuroscience new and exciting research is now emerging in understanding the causes of the more common psychiatric traits. Certainly drug research in psychiatric disorders has grown exponentially over the last few years. In terms of psychiatry, more often than not, much of this research has focused on the most prevalent psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.

As a researcher involved in understanding the neurobiological basis of both psychological and psychiatric traits I am often asked to provide sources of information and references for integrated reviews and expert opinions that focus on the neurobiology of what I might call less frequently studied but important psychological traits and psychiatric disorders. Such traits are often but not exclusively related to childhood behaviours and disorders and invariably involve an understanding of important psychological processes. Unfortunately there is much less research on the neurobiology of constructs such intelligence, personality and creativity and disorders such as ADHD, autism, mental retardation and antisociality. Moreover the research in this field is not easily accessed. Although there are active research groups studying these phenomena, there is not the same sort of resources allocated for research into the large adult disorders such as depression and schizophrenia as understanding human intelligence. This is a shame in many ways, because clearly there is a need for research on the biological basis of important traits such as intelligence and creativity and childhood disorders such as autism. One of the main aims of this book is to provide some coverage of the neurobiology of lesser researched and profiled psychological and psychiatric traits.

Although there are select individual sources of information on some of the topics covered in this book available elsewhere, there is no one single source that provides up to date accounts, that are easily accessible to researchers, psychologists, teachers, students and parents. Indeed the chapters in this book cover a wide range of research on the neurobiology of fascinating psychological and psychiatric traits and are intended to help readers quickly understand our current knowledge of the biological processes for each of these different areas. In this regard I believe the book will be useful to both researchers, educators and parents.

In this book I have invited leading researchers in different areas to write comprehensive reviews on topics that I believe will be of great interest to researchers, students, educators, parents and psychologists. Indeed I believe that such a book is important for several reasons. First we must continue to attract a new generation of researchers into studying the neurobiological basis of these traits which have traditionally been under-studied. Second, the information contained in this book is long over due for parents who are interested in not just the behavioural information relating to childhood and other disorders but the underlying biological basis of these behaviours in their children. Often, parents make important decisions for their children without the requisite knowledge to make these decisions. This is not a criticism of parents. Up until recently such information was not easily accessible. Perhaps the information contained in the chapters in this book may assist parents in better understanding these disorders. Third, and perhaps most importantly, both psychologists and teachers often have a profound misunderstanding of the biological basis of both key psychological traits such as intelligence, personality and creativity and abnormal psychological traits that are inherent in childhood disorders such as such ADHD. This often stems from a misunderstanding of the difference between nature and nurture. Many teachers and psychologists still confuse genetic influences on our behaviours with the neurobiological processes that underpin our behaviours. Indeed our biology represents both genetic and environmental influences and underpins all of our behaviours, thoughts and actions. Clearly an understanding of only our children's behaviours without an understanding of the underlying biological basis for these behaviours is rather limiting. Probably the other reason that both psychologists and educators commonly do not understand the neurobiology of important psychological and psychiatric constructs is that often neurbiological techniques are highly complicated, confusing and technical. To remediate this latter problem, Aina Puce in Chapter One provides an excellent overview and description for psychologists and educators not involved in neuroscience, explaining the basis of current neurobiology methodologies and techniques. The knowledge expertly outlined in this chapter will greatly facilitate the information contained in the chapters to follow. In Section II, the chapters present current reviews of the neurobiological basis of psychological traits spanning constructs such as intelligence, creativity and personality. In Section III, several chapters are presented that deal with our current understanding of the neurobiology of psychiatric traits, particularly related to childhood disorders. Although the book is not intended as a comprehensive coverage of all areas in psychiatry and psychology, the book emphasizes areas that are not often covered in both of these areas. Overall the book is concerned with the neurobiology of exceptional psychological traits and psychiatric disorders.

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