Lecture: Neurobiology of Wisdom

Dr. Dilip Jeste ---

On August 17, 2010 from 12-1 pm Dr. Dilip Jeste spoke about “The neurobiology of wisdom” as part of the UCSD Biomedical Library lunchtime seminar series

The concept of wisdom has been described since ancient times, primarily in religious and philosophical literature.  Empirical scientific research on wisdom has been a much more recent phenomenon. Dr. Jeste will review the conceptualization of wisdom in modern western literature, according to which wisdom is a uniquely human complex trait with several subcomponents including knowledge of life, emotional regulation, insight, pro-social behavior, value relativism, and decisiveness in the face of uncertainty. He will compare findings from our studies of the construct of wisdom based on an international expert consensus versus an ancient text of Hindu religion and philosophy – the Bhagavad Gita. Next, he will present a putative neurobiological model of wisdom that involves a balance between phylogenetically oldest and newest parts of the human brain – the prefrontal cortex and the limbic striatum, respectively. Finally, he will discuss the relationship of wisdom with aging, the associated neuroplasticity, and a speculation of the possible evolutionary significance of wisdom.

Dilip V. Jeste, M.D., is Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging, Director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  He is also the Director of the Advanced Center for Innovation in Services and Intervention Research at UCSD, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and of the John A. Hartford Center of Excellence in Geriatric Psychiatry. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and of the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institutes of Health. He is the Principal Investigator on several research and training grants from federal and non-federal sources (including Summer Research Institute in Geriatric Psychiatry, a national research training program).  Dr. Jeste has published ten books and over 600 articles in peer-reviewed journals and books.  He is the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, and has also been on the editorial boards of several journals, including the American Journal of Psychiatry.  He is on the ISI list of the “world’s most cited authors”– comprising less than one half of one percent of all publishing researchers of the last two decades.

Related articles:


Dr. Jeste provided his slides: View in PDF format

we did record audio of this lecture, but the sound quality turned out to be very poor.  Dr. Jeste gave a related lecture later in 2010 which was filmed for UCSD TV.  The video for that talk is available on YouTube.