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Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Jul;157(7):1041-50.

Toward reformulating the diagnosis of schizophrenia.

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Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston 02115, USA.



The authors assess implications of DSM criteria for schizophrenia by reviewing the criteria's 1) emphasis on psychotic features, 2) dissociation of symptoms from their etiology, 3) exclusive reliance on clinical features but exclusion of biological indicators, and 4) classification of schizophrenia as a discrete category. The authors then discuss alternative conceptions of schizophrenia that take into account recent data concerning its genetic and neurodevelopmental origins and its pathophysiological substrates.


The historical development of diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia is reviewed in the context of recent published data on the biology and development of schizophrenia.


Growing evidence suggests that symptoms of psychosis may be a common end-state in a variety of disorders, including schizophrenia, rather than a reflection of the specific etiology of schizophrenia. Features occurring before the advent of psychosis that are clinical, biological, and/or neuropsychological in nature may constitute evidence of a genetic predisposition toward schizophrenia ("schizotaxia") and may provide more specific information about the genetic, pathophysiological, and developmental origins of schizophrenia.


The success of efforts to treat and prevent schizophrenia will depend to an important extent on an accurate understanding of its causes. This goal can be furthered by conducting field trials to develop research criteria to assess the value of a developmentally sensitive, biologically informed approach to classification that would consider schizotaxia with psychosis (schizophrenia) and schizotaxia alone as distinct diagnostic conditions.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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