Newsweek writer Alexander Nazaryan overviews the recent “kick in the rear” provided to brain science by hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, and asks various experts and himself when we might expect such research to provide anything helpful. Nobel prize-winning physician Eric Kandel tells Newsweek that he’s a “delusional optimist,” while admitting that we’ve made “only modest improvements” in responding to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
“We know, for example, that dumping cold water on an ailing patient won’t cure insanity, but despite the proliferation of psychiatric drugs in the second half of the 20th century, we are not sure what will,” writes Nazaryan. “That’s in large part because the brain, with its 86 billion neurons, remains deeply resistant to our understanding, despite recent advances in neuroimaging.” As for gene studies, Nazaryan observes that, “between the vastness of the human genome and the inscrutability of the brain, it could be many years before we fully grasp how aberrant genes produce specific illnesses, longer yet before we are able translate these insights into treatment.”
When Will Mental Illness Finally Yield to Science? (Newsweek, August 11, 2014)