Apr 6, 2009 | 12
Some of us look for wisdom in the Bible, Plato or at Grandma's knee. Dilip Jeste and his colleague Thomas Meeks are searching for it in the brain.
Jeste and Meeks, both geriatric psychiatrists at the University of California, San Diego, hypothesize in the Archives of General Psychiatry that wisdom, or at least the execution of its attributes, can be found in the brain's primitive limbic system as well as its more evolutionarily advanced prefrontal cortex.
Wisdom for centuries has been a religious or philosophical concept that varies somewhat by culture. But Jeste tells ScientificAmerican.com that there is reason to believe that it's rooted in neurobiology. He and Meeks pored through medical literature, locating 10 papers that defined wisdom. Based on commonalities in the research, the two proposed that wisdom is made up of the behaviors that reflect the good of the group, pragmatism, emotional balance, self-understanding, tolerance and the ability to deal with ambiguity. Then, based on those studies, they zeroed in on which neurotransmitters (the brain's chemical messengers) were active and which parts of the brain light up on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) when we behave wisely.
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