Wisdom appears to be more than a subjective concept, it may actually be contained in certain brain circuits and pathways, suggest US researchers who compiled the first-ever review of the neurobiology of wisdom.
They said this type of research could potentially lead to interventions for enhancing wisdom.
It's widely agreed that wisdom includes six traits: empathy, compassion, altruism, self-understanding, emotional stability and pro-social attitudes, such as a tolerance for others' values, according to background information in a news release about the study.
But many questions about wisdom remain. Is it universal or culturally based? Is it uniquely human? Is it related to age and experience? Can it be taught?
How the study was done
"Defining wisdom is rather subjective, though there are many similarities in definition across time and cultures. However, our research suggests that there may be a basis in neurobiology for wisdom's most universal traits," said study author Dr Dilip V. Jeste of the department of psychiatry at the University of California.
Jeste and his colleague, Dr Thomas W. Meeks, studied existing articles, publications and other documents for the six attributes most commonly associated with wisdom and for the brain circuitry associated with those attributes.
They found that these six traits are associated with heightened activity in several different areas of the brain. It appears that the neurobiology of wisdom involves an "optimal balance" between more primitive brain systems (the limbic system) and the more developed areas of the brain, the researchers said.
"Understanding the neurobiology of wisdom may have considerable clinical significance, for example, in studying how certain disorders or traumatic brain injuries can affect traits related to wisdom," Jeste said.
The study appears in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. – (HealthDay News, April 2009)
Some wired for thrills
Brain wired to conform?