Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

16594The Neurobiology Of Wisdom

Expand Messages
  • medit8ionsociety
    Apr 10, 2009
    • 0 Attachment
      Researchers at the University of California,
      San Diego School of Medicine have compiled the
      first-ever review of the neurobiology of wisdom -
      once the sole province of religion and philosophy.
      The study by Dilip V. Jeste, MD, and Thomas W.
      Meeks, MD, of UC San Diego's Department of Psychiatry
      and the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, was
      published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

      "Defining wisdom is rather subjective, though
      there are many similarities in definition across
      time and cultures," said Jeste, who is the Estelle
      and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging, professor of psychiatry
      and neuroscience and chief of geriatric psychiatry
      at UC San Diego. "However, our research suggests
      that there may be a basis in neurobiology for wisdom's
      most universal traits."

      Wisdom has been defined over centuries and
      civilizations to encompass numerous psychological
      traits. Components of wisdom are commonly agreed
      to include such attributes as empathy, compassion
      or altruism, emotional stability, self-understanding,
      and pro-social attitudes, including a tolerance for
      others' values.

      "But questions remain: is wisdom universal, or
      culturally based?" said Jeste. "Is it uniquely human,
      related to age? Is it dependent on experience or
      can wisdom be taught?"

      Empirical research on wisdom is a relatively new
      phenomenon. Meeks and Jeste noted that in the 1970s,
      there were only 20 peer-reviewed articles on wisdom,
      but since 2000, there have been more than 250 such
      publications. However, the researchers found no
      previous studies using the keyword "wisdom" in combination
      with the terms neurobiology, neuroimaging or

      In order to determine if specific brain circuits and
      pathways might be responsible for wisdom, the
      researchers examined existing articles, publications
      and other documents for six attributes most commonly
      included in the definition of wisdom, and for the
      brain circuitry associated with those attributes.

      Meeks and Jeste focused primarily on functional
      neuroimaging studies, studies which measure changes
      in blood flow or metabolic alterations in the brain,
      as well as on neurotransmitter functions and genetics.
      They found, for example, that pondering a situation
      calling for altruism activates the medial pre-frontal
      cortex, while moral decision-making is a combination
      of rational (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which
      plays a role in sustaining attention and working memory), emotional/social (medial pre-frontal cortex), and
      conflict detection (the anterior cingulate cortex,
      sometimes also associated with a so-called "sixth
      sense") functions.

      Interestingly, several common brain regions appear to
      be involved in different components of wisdom. The UC
      San Diego researchers suggest that the neurobiology
      of wisdom may involve an optimal balance between more
      primitive brain regions (the limbic system) and the
      newest ones (pre-frontal cortex.) Knowledge of the
      underlying mechanisms in the brain could potentially
      lead to developing interventions for enhancing wisdom.

      "Understanding the neurobiology of wisdom may
      have considerable clinical significance, for example,
      in studying how certain disorders or traumatic brain
      injuries can affect traits related to wisdom," said
      Jeste, stressing that this study is only a first
      step in a long process.


      The study was supported in part by grants from the National Institute on Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UC San Diego and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      Debra Kain
      University of California - San Diego

      Article URL: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/145396.php
    • Show all 6 messages in this topic