June 1, 2015
After Yi Jin, M.D., graduated from Shanghai Medical University, his philosopher father was troubled when his son abruptly switched his specialty from cardiology to psychiatry. For Dr. Jin’s father, psychiatry was a fool’s errand because it was logically impossible for the mind to comprehend itself. “What makes you think you can use your dumb brain to figure out why it’s so dumb?” he asked his son.
Dr. Jin had to admit that his father had a point. By the 1980s when that conversation took place, psychiatry had made only minimal progress in the previous 30 years. Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, autism, panic attacks, depression, and generalized anxiety were stubbornly resistant to cures. Their symptoms could be masked with pharmaceuticals, but true progress in curing them had not progressed in a generation.