FOR MANY years, it has been hoped that in addition to overt behavioral deviations, covert physiologic deviations might be found in patients with various kinds of mental disorder which would be of assistance in classifying, understanding, and treating the illness. In keeping with this possibility, the notion has often enthusiastically been advanced that an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system exists in schizophrenics that might produce abnormal sensitivity to life stresses, perhaps hypersensitivity to punishment and criticism, and hyposensitivity to reward and praise. It has been suspected that measurements of sympathetic-parasympathetic balance might confirm or deny portions of this hypothesis. Of the many attempts made to discover such a physiologic index prior to 1961, none appeared convincing upon replication.
Rubin1-4 has used measures of pupillary constriction (cholinergic) and dilation (adrenergic) as an index of autonomic function in a sample of 47 psychotic patients.