French Psychiatry

Méthodes Biologiques en Clinique Psychiatrique. By Professor Jean Delay. (Pp. 536; 68 figures. 2,000 francs.) Paris: Masson. 1950.

British Medical Journal, 3 May 1952, p. 950

The author of this massive book is professor of psychiatry in the University of Paris, and his work is therefore likely to have a far-reaching effect on the teaching of psychiatry and the direction of research and clinical interests in France. French psychiatry has for the past two or three generations remained rather isolated from the influences which have been dominant in other parts of Europe, in Britain, and in the U.S.A., and since the time of Janet it has tended towards stagnation. Kraepelin, Bleuler, Freud, and Jung have all failed to attract French clinicians away from their preoccupation with the refined subclassification of clinical states along purely symptomatological lines. But recent additions to knowledge provided by physical methods of investigation and treatment have clearly made a strong appeal. Professor Delay has played a leading role in this innovating tendency, and in his earlier books has provided a stimulating contribution.

    He attempts to make this book systematic. It consists of three sections concerned with encephalographic methods (electro- and pneumo-encephalography), electro-shock and psychosurgery, and " psycho-chemistry." The last section covers such heterogeneous subjects as psychoses associated with humoral and hormonal changes, the use of penicillin, the treatment of epilepsy, and narco-analysis. The attempt at comprehensiveness is- partially defeated by the omission of any discussion of insulin-coma therapy ; and it seems to the reviewer that little purpose is served by thrusting into one bag subjects which have essentially little relation to one another. Furthermore, the clinical observations on which the author founds his discussion are for the most part of an individual and anecdotal kind; no large series of patients of any one kind has been systematically investigated. These deficiencies lend the whole work a rather literary quality. Nevertheless the British reader must await with interest the further development to which this new spirit in French psychiatry will lead.