Evolutionary Psychiatry – A personal journey through books
- February 15, 2021
- Category: Blog
What do psychiatrists have to learn from the processes of evolution? One of many questions on the agenda for the inaugural meeting of the ‘Think Tank’ Book Club. Expanding their long-running book review series, the working group behind the quarterly Trainee eNewsletter ‘Think Tank’ have branched out into a live and interactive forum where trainees in psychiatry can virtually join together to discuss works of literature alongside an invited guest four times a year.
Earlier this month, College Dean of Education, Dr Aoibhinn Lynch launched the Book Club, which is being held via Zoom for the time being, introducing the very first invited speaker, Professor Henry O’Connell. Prof O’Connell, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Limerick, joined by video-link in order to bring participants on a journey of literature, covering a number of his favourite books in the area of evolutionary theory and medicine.
Prof O’Connell kicked off speaking to the personal and career benefits of reading, encouraging trainees to consider reading novels and keeping a list of “go-to books”. He then directed the talk towards the topic at hand, evolutionary psychiatry, providing an overview of the key evolutionary theories underpinning low mood, anxiety, schizophrenia, ageing and the possible implications for clinical practice and future research. The latter half of the evening focused on a twenty-year journey through literature that has shaped Prof’Connell’s relationship with evolutionary psychiatry, with titles discussed including “Evolutionary Psychology” by David M Buss, “Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine” by Randolph M. Nesse and George William, “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin as well as the main focus of discussion, the popular Randolph M. Nesse work, “Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry”.
Key takeaways for the evening’s conversation included the importance of reading for pleasure, yet also reading with a purpose, the positive aspects of “always having a book on the go”, and the often forgotten importance of keeping track of what you have read. With emphasis throughout the night on the benefits of discussion with peers and shared learning through literature, Prof O’Connell also encouraged trainees to write and publish book reviews of their own.
For those interested in learning more about the field of Evolutionary Psychiatry, the second meeting of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland dedicated Special Interest Group is scheduled to take place on Friday 14th May 2021. Those who are interested can contact Helen Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on the group and how to get involved.
There is also a separate Evolutionary Psychiatry WhatsApp group run by Prof O’Connell and those who would like to join can please contact him via email at email@example.com.
The ‘Think Tank’ group have said that initial feedback on the first Book Club meeting has been encouragingly positive, with trainees welcoming the novel format that not only promotes the importance of reading, but provides a much-needed opportunity for trainees to connect and socialise with their peers, particularly given the often isolating circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.