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Introducing a ‘neuropsychiatry’ special issue: but what does that mean?
  1. Alan J Carson
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alan J Carson, Department of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK; EH10 5HF a.carson{at}

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“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Lewis Carroll

Journal editors like themed or special issues. It is a chance to appeal to readers of the paper journal, our subscribers, and produce a stimulating, integrated read that will hopefully have some form of ‘added value’. In an era of computerised search engines to identify individual papers out there in the ether, the special issue seems to speak to a journal's identity. The JNNP's identity, since its formation by Kinnear Wilson, has always been bound to the idea of coherent integration of differing perspectives from the different disciplines that may be loosely considered as clinical brain sciences. A neuropsychiatry themed issue seems an obvious choice.

But what actually is neuropsychiatry? The American Neuropsychiatric Association (ANA) define it ‘as the integrated study of psychiatric and neurologic disorders’ which is wonderfully circular, although they do within their mission statement add a desire ‘for better understanding [of the] links between neuroscience and behaviour’. The International Neuropsychiatric Association echo this with a similar definition describing an ‘increase [in] understanding of brain function and human behaviour’. But in what way is this different from simply viewing mental disorder in general as having a, at least in part, neural basis, and does it matter? The British Neuropsychiatry Association (BPNA) avoid a definition altogether. …

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  • Competing interests AJC is an associate editor of the JNNP and President of the British Neuropsychiatry Association (who welcome new members of both neurological or psychiatric persuasion). He has also given paid expert testimony in Court on a range of neuropsychiatric topics.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.