Theoretical Medicine

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 45–51 | Cite as

Dementia praecox as a failure of neoteny

  • Jules R. Bemporad


The theory of neoteny assumes that adult animals that are higher on the phylogenetic scale retain juvenile characteristics for greater periods of their lifetime. This hypothesis would account for the continuation of curiosity, learning and playfulness in humans and other higher primates in contrast to less evolved mammals. The failure of the neoteny process could result in humans that have lost these juvenile characteristics and lack motivation, curiosity and the capacity to learn freely. These features are indicative of the negative symptoms of dementia praecox, a chronic mental illness that strikes individuals as they become adults.

It is postulated that a possible mechanism in the etiology of dementia praecox is the failure of regulator genes to program structural genes to produce enzymes necessary for neoteny. Positive symptoms of the disorder may be conceptualized as the organisms aberrant response to this activation failure. The role of regulator genes in chronic illness may prove a significant avenue for further investigation.

Key words

neoteny regulator genes schizophrenia 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jules R. Bemporad
    • 1
  1. 1.The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Westchester DivisionWhite PlainsUSA

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