Endophenotypes and Entropy: Exploring how Brain Biology Could Affect Family Dynamics

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In my perspective, the mind’s job is to distribute energy toward meeting the needs of self and the needs of others. As we are social creatures, we are continuously exchanging attunement and behavioral nurturing inward and outward, back and forth, with other people. This exchange is what builds our social intimacy, our realization of fulfilling goals and is the foundation of our emotional/experiential sustenance. When our needs are left unmet because of a disturbance in this exchange and distribution of energy, pathology results. In this line of thinking, the goal of counseling and psychology should be to address any disturbances, imbalances and sources of wasted energy in the need-fulfillment system.
From a neurocognitive perspective, there are certain inborn predispositions that can cause a person to be prone to disturbances in the smooth flowing of energy toward needs. With regard to eating disorders, research has indicated that people with Anorexia tend to have poorer set-shifting (ability to change tasks)(Tchanturia, et al., 2012), poorer central coherence (ability to see bigger picture over detail) (Lopez, et al. 2008) and more difficulty establishing theory of mind (the ability to identify the mental states of others)(Oldershaw, et al. 15).
How might these predispositions affect an individual’s ability to effectively meet his or her needs in the social system? I suggest that if one has a tendency to misperceive the emotions, mental intent, needs and expectations of those around them, and they tend to perseverate in these inaccurate preoccupations, this could generate positive feedback loops that culminate in unmet needs of both self and others.
The mind must continuously distribute focus and energy toward the emerging and changing needs of self and others in order to ensure that these needs are adequately met. However, if a person is unable to adaptively move that energy where appropriate, when appropriate, due to low set-shifting and poor central coherence, and if that mode is based upon faulty assessment of need in the first place, that energy will be stuck in a wasted space, leaving the other areas of need in deficit. The less these needs are fulfilled and the more the individual is preoccupied with these misinterpretations, the more energy is drained out to entropy. Entropy is most destructive to our psychological and behavioral health. Wasted energy means needs cannot be sufficiently fulfilled because we all have a finite amount of energy and focus with which we can devote toward the fulfillment of the needs of self and others.
In conclusion, there are endophenotypes that predispose a person toward the generation of entropy in the environmental field. That environment is most marked in the family because family is the primary direction most of us devote our energy to. However, these entropic exchanges are not limited to family–they extend to every social network in the person’s life (you take your endophenotypes everywhere you go).
If an individual is not able to “change the channel” on where they put their focus and effort, and if that focus and effort is directed toward an inaccurate target, then the real target of other people’s needs cannot be met and the needs of self will be neglected. This cycle further adds to the internalization of emotional strain from the social group, which feeds back into the preoccupation, further driving the cycle of entropy. In essence, I believe the brain makes us prone to social exchanges that are entropic, this entropy causes us to lose energy, lost energy leads to unmet needs of self, which lead to pathologies like depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders.


Lopez, C., Tchanturia, K., Stahl, D., Both, R., Holliday, J. & Treasure, J. (2008). An Examination of the Concept of Central Coherence in Women with Anorexia Nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 41, 143-152.

Oldershaw, A., Hambrook, D., Stahl, D., Tchanturia, K, Treasure, J. & Schmidt, U. (2011). The Socio-Emotional Processing Stream in Anorexia Nervosa. Neuroscience Biobehavioral Review, 35, 970-988.

Tchanturia, K., Davies, H., Roberts, M., Harrison, A., Nakazato, M. & Schmidt, U. et al. (2012). Poor Cognitive Flexibility in Eating Disorders: Examining the Evidence Using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task. PLOS One, 7 e28331.

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