As psychiatrists, we are asked to treat patients with extremely complex illnesses. There are many possible ways to think about and formulate cases, including a range of psychological and social perspectives, each with their own strengths and limitations. To varying degrees, these perspectives have rightfully guided the development of our field and continue to shape the standards of our practice.
During the past 20 years, revolutionary new tools and approaches in neuroscience have led to unprecedented progress in our ability to understand the biological underpinnings of psychiatric illnesses.1 This work very much complements rather than competes with our other rich traditions. In fact, distinctions between “psychological” and “biological” are rapidly fading as evidence demonstrates that all effective treatments (whether psychotherapy or pharmacologic agents) alter core brain networks and thus are all biological in nature.2 Cognitive neuroscience is providing contemporary neural system models for understanding psychodynamic concepts such as our sense of self, defenses and drives, and unconscious thoughts and motivations.1 In addition, an understanding of epigenetics offers novel insights into how social context and environmental factors translate into biological changes at the level of gene expression.3
Arbuckle MR, Travis MJ, Ross DA. Integrating a Neuroscience Perspective Into Clinical Psychiatry Today. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(4):313–314. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.3849
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: