‘Wisdom is Genetically Inherited Trait’ says the neuropsychiatrist Dilip Jeste’s new book


Our Bureau

San Diego, Calif

In his latest book, “Wiser: The Scientific Roots of Wisdom, Compassion, and What Makes Us Good,” the Maharashtra-born neuropsychiatrist, the distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the University of California San Diego, tries to unravel the sources of wisdom in the human brain. He arrives at the thesis that wisdom is a trait that can be genetically inherited, even though the environment also plays a major role.

Jeste’s life-long research focused on the intersection of neuroscience and psychiatry, exploring the ways in which brain structure and function influence mental health and well-being.. “The prefrontal cortex, hands-down, is the most important part of the neurobiology of wisdom,” Jeste was quoted. “Located behind the forehead, the prefrontal cortex is the newest part of the brain evolutionarily.” While age and experience contribute to what we call wisdom, he says the prefrontal cortex and amygdala are key sources of it.

Not excluding the impact of environmental influences, “wisdom might even be a personality trait that could be roughly 35 -50% genetically inherited, he contends.

In a paper published by the National Library of Medicine, Jeste says, “The concept of wisdom, long considered the ‘pinnacle of insight into the human condition’ has been that of an intangible, subjective, culturally-specific entity — an unscientific construct, perhaps best reserved for abstract religious and philosophical discussions.

According to Jeste, a wise person is compassionate, calm, open-minded and decisive who learned from experiences.  Wisdom consists of several traits, including Prosocial behavior (empathy, compassion and altruism), Emotional stability, self-reflection, balancing decisiveness with acceptance of uncertainty, pragmatic knowledge of life and spirituality or belief in something larger than oneself.

Born in India in 1949, Jeste completed his medical degree in Mumbai before pursuing further training in psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He joined the faculty at UCLA in 1986 and has remained there ever since, holding a number of leadership positions within the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.

One of Jeste’s major areas of focus has been on schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. He has worked to identify the biological mechanisms underlying the disorder and has developed new treatments that target these mechanisms.

An author of 14 books, more than 750 articles in peer-reviewed journals, Jeste has been an influential figure within the field of psychiatry. He has served as the President of the American Psychiatric Association, the first Asian-American, to preside over this 175-year-old institution.

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