Emotion has long been the province of poets. The oldest recorded love ballad, in fact, was scratched onto a Sumerian clay tablet more than four millennia ago. So why are today’s scientists meddling with the mysteries of love, melancholia, and joy? What prompts researchers to subject our passions to the dispassionate tools of biomedical science?
This issue of Harvard Medicine is devoted to exploring the ways in which Harvard Medical School investigators are using those tools—brain scans, protein analyses, clinical trials—to understand and mitigate human suffering.
In this issue you’ll read about techniques for treating intractable depression, for easing the pain of post–traumatic stress disorder, for softening adolescent rage. You’ll gain insight into the neurological links between anger and depression. And you’ll learn that love is not a secondhand emotion, but an elemental one, as essential to our well–being as sleep and nourishment.
In a playful counterfoil to this special report on emotion, you’ll also find an exploration of what science fiction can teach us about science fact. In this feature, scientists describe, tongue in cheek, the inspiration they’ve derived from creatures decidedly lacking in feelings: zombies, extinct beasts, and the elfin–eared Spock.
Regrettably, I note that this issue of the magazine is the last under the editorship of Paula Byron. For a dozen years Paula led a series of creative teams in producing issues that explored medicine through a range of themes, from the neurobiology of the arts to the seven deadly sins, from ethics to fashion, from history’s medical mysteries to the five senses. During that time the magazine was named a finalist for the National Magazine Award and won more than 30 national awards for editorial excellence, including the Robert Sibley Magazine of the Year Award. More important than awards, though, was Paula’s rich collaboration with the graduates, faculty, staff, and students at HMS. We wish her success in her new role at Virginia Tech, where, after years of telling the stories of one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, she’ll be telling the stories of one of the youngest.
Our regret over this change should be tempered, however, by the knowledge that this fine magazine will continue, its voice remaining a strong and vibrant one for the School and its alumni.
Image: John Soares