October 13, 2010

Wisdom—A Neuroscience Perspective

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, and Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California, San Diego (Dr Jeste); and Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland (Dr Harris).

JAMA. 2010;304(14):1602-1603. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1458

Philosophers, poets, and pundits have long pondered human nature, positing psychological constructs such as consciousness, cognition, emotion, and resilience to stress. However, biological scientists have tended to ignore or avoid serious discussion and investigation of such constructs, considering them complex, or imprecise, and not measureable using conventional scientific methods. Recent research has shown that these constructs are scientifically valid and, importantly, that they rest on underlying biological foundations.1 However, one construct continues to be resisted by many in the neuroscience community—the construct of wisdom. Frequently dismissed as an ideal, amorphous, and convenient label for desirable traits that vary widely from one culture to another, wisdom has not been considered a topic suitable for scientific scrutiny.

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