“What a piece of work is man ! How noble in reason ! How infinite in faculty ! In form, in moving, how express and admirable ! In action how like an angel ! In apprehension how like a God ! The beauty of the world ! the paragon of animals ! – Shakespear, Hamlet.
Understanding of the mind is the central problem for man. Religious and political beliefs, scientific and cultural advances, the evaluation of life and man’s part in life all depend upon concepts, products of the mind. Ancient Indian thinkers and Philosophers have laid great stress on ‘ Atmanam Viddhi’ or ‘ Know thyself’.
One’s Own mind is subjective experience, a personal world which can be explored only by introspection. The minds of other persons can be inferred from their behaviour, their speech, writing and actions. The minds of animals can be inferred from their actions alone.
We can only talk about the attributes of the mind. A pre – requisite for the phenomenon of mind is consciousness which may be described as a state in which there is ability to be aware of sensation – that is, a state in which perception may take place. Components of the mind cab be considered as perception, memory, emotion, propositional thoughts and response. Since the end-products of the mind are apparent only in so far as they can be expressed in speech, writing or other action which together constitute “behavior” in a broad sense, modern scientific study of the mind has mainly concentrated on the study of behavior. Past and present patterns of behavior create an image of the subject as ” personality”.
The brain is the organ of the mind and till recently psychology attempted to treat the brain as a black box. Indeed, much of biology was learnt by the black box method. The difficulty with the black box approach is thath unless the box is inherently very simple, a stage is soon equally well. Attempts to decide among them often prove unsuccessful. In the last three decades, scientists have been able to poke inside the black box and gain valuable insights.
The complexity of the brain is yielding to scientific analysis and new pathways are being opened to the study of behavior. The recent discovery of several neuro-peptides and study of their possible functional roles is one of the most active areas of scientific research and is at the frontier of work in neurology.
The recent development of PET ( Positron emission tomography) and approprate radioactive tracers labelled to relate regional biochemistry within the human brain to measurements of behavior in normal subjects and to elucidate abnormalities in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, depression and multiple-infarct dementia.
There is a growing realization that much of the world’s burden of illness is behavior – related. Major institutions concerned with the science base for health have increasingly addressed the relation of behavior to health. The World Health Organization is actively planning a new programme of research on health and behavior in developing countries. This chapter therefore, attempts to review our current understanding of Human behavior and illness.