I first became interested in issues related to biochemistry and behavior when I was in graduate school at Ohio State University in the mid-1960s. Not as a participant in the drug culture (my “mind-altering substance” was coffee), but during a seminar led by one of the biochemistry faculty. He spoke on the “pink spot” found in the urine of some patients with schizophrenia. For three years as an undergraduate I had worked in a hospital research lab and developed an interest in laboratory diagnosis of disease. For some reason, this lecture intrigued me, although I did not pursue the topic at that time.
After receiving my Ph.D and doing the obligatory two years as a biochemistry post-doctoral fellow at Duke University, I wound up running a clinical chemistry lab at the local community hospital. Several years later, we moved into a new facility that contained a short-term adult psychiatric unit. Studies of cortisol production in depression became the “hot item” in the late 1970s, so I quickly immersed myself in the psychiatry literature (incidentally, I found a number of flaws in these studies). My interest in the relationship between monoamine oxidase and schizophrenia also developed during this time. Subsequent research showed the relationship to be spurious, in part because everyone was measuring the enzyme activity incorrectly (oops!)
The changing economic climate for health care funding took me out of the clinical laboratory arena and into academia. Since I loved to teach (for several years I had taught laboratory medicine as an adjunct at Duke in the physician’s assistant program), I took a faculty position at Whitworth College (now Whitworth University) in Spokane, Washington. The next several years were spent in dealing with all the usual efforts to gain tenure (successfully). Then I had the time to begin exploring again some of the scientific and ethical issues I was interested in. I received faculty summer research awards to explore issues in biochemistry and behavior (is there a link between low serotonin and violence?) and ethical issues in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.
I retired from Whitworth in 2006 and began some projects that I am still pursuing. A chapter on issues between psychiatry and Pentecostal theology (focusing on depression) will appear this spring in a book published by Indiana University Press. I also wrote an article on “Is There a Gay Gene?” (no, there isn’t) and am doing some follow-up studies looking at the issue of behavior and brain plasticity. Another major project is dealing with issues in neuroscience and the law. If I have low brain serotonin, can I chop up my grandmother and not go to jail? Some very unsettled questions in this arena.
I would enjoy hearing from people who have an interest in these and related topics.