In contrast to ailments like a fractured leg or a badly pumping heart, he notes, psychiatric problems can’t be directly monitored. It’s the brain’s “hidden communication process, its internal voice, that struggles,” he writes. There is nothing to measure except words, “the patient’s communications, and our own.”
Because of his experiences as a physician and researcher, Dr. Deisseroth recognizes the limitations of science and medicine and the transcendent value of elemental human connection. Recalling an hour he deliberately set aside on a busy overnight shift to speak with a patient trying to come to terms with unimaginable loss, Dr. Deisseroth writes: “I could do something—not much, but something. And that matters—realizing at a place and moment you have been called to be whatever it is that humanity can be for a person. That is not nothing.” In life’s most difficult moments, it might be everything.