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Neurologists use the word ‘organic’ a lot. We like to think we can spot when things are ‘organic’ or indeed ‘non-organic’. But what exactly do we mean?
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives us eight definitions of the word organic. No wonder we get so confused by it. In the biological/medical sense it comes up with ‘Of a part of the body: composed of distinct parts or tissues (obs.); of, relating to, or of the nature of an organ or organs. Later (Med.): producing or characterized by structural or other pathological change in an organ or organs (now esp. the brain) (cf. functional adj. 3b); not psychogenic’.1
The chemical definition boils it right down to basics, ‘relating to or designating compounds which exist naturally as constituents of living organisms or are formed from such substances …
Competing interests We used the phrase ‘organic disease’ in a lot of our epidemiological studies – we shouldn’t have.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed. Reviewed by Martin Turner, Oxford, UK.
Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. The Competing interests statement has been edited.