Oral Histories

Van Praag, Herman

Biographical Sketch:

Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Professor van Praag is without question one of the foremost psychiatrists and researchers in the field of neuropsychopharmacology of the second half of the twentieth century. His influence in this area has been enormous and even extends far beyond it. One of the more influential concepts that he has introduced is that of the endogenous (’vital’) depression, showing it to respond preferentially to medical treatment. Furthermore, Professor van Praag was one of the first to suggest a link between serotonin and depression, later expanding this relationship in elucidating connections between serotonin and (auto) aggression and anxiety. Indeed, his work has contributed significantly to the development of serotonin reuptake inhibitors, now the standard of antidepressant and antianxiety treatments. Finally, he has pioneered the concept that biological disturbances
should not be thought to be linked with complete illness syndromes, but instead are probably related to specific symptoms or phenotypes. Examples are the relationship between serotonin and (auto) aggression and between dopamine and (motor) inhibition in depression. Only recently has the field adopted this highly prescient concept, using it to elucidate the genetic
underpinnings of psychiatric disorders.
Apart from his scientific accomplishments, Professor van Praag's influence has extended far beyond science itself. He has motivated hundreds of researchers in the whole of Europe, Israel and the United States to venture into the field of biological psychiatry and neuropsycho-pharmacology. Not only has he inspired them, he has in fact founded several national and international organizations in the field of biological psychiatry. Finally, Professor van Praag has shown considerable personal and scientific courage, withstanding multiple personal and scientific assaults in the seventies, initiated by the anti psychiatry movement in Europe. During these unwarranted and unfounded attacks against psychiatric research, and biological studies in particular, he has held fast to his scientific and humanistic ideals, continuing as he did in his quest to find the biological underpinnings of abnormal behaviour.

Van Praag, Herman
Topical Index:

Interview History:

Dates: 7-Dec
Interviewer: . Belmaker



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