by Solomon H. Snyder, M.D.; Arlington, Virginia, American Psychiatric Publishing, 2008, 513 pages, $70
Dr. Zarate is chief of the Mood Disorders Research Unit, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
Discovery in psychiatry is often attributed to serendipity. Well-known examples include the manner in which first-generation antipsychotic drugs, tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors were introduced into practice. Although many discoveries in our field occurred by coincidence, there are also multiple instances of findings made through state-of-the-art science. Science and Psychiatry brings to light some of these important breakthroughs and thoughtfully illustrates how they have had an impact not only on mental illness but also on other areas of medicine. The account of some of these key discoveries in psychiatry and neuroscience is well told through the story of Dr. Solomon Snyder, one of the most influential neurobiological scientists of our era. In Science and Psychiatry Dr. Snyder describes a path of scientific discovery by recounting his personal journey as a musician, student, physician, scientist, teacher, advocate, leader, and mentor. It is not often that we get to hear or read about groundbreaking discoveries deftly interwoven with the story of the protagonist's life; Science and Psychiatry accomplishes this and more.
This remarkable book is divided into ten parts and contains 27 chapters. Each of the ten parts begins with a commentary from one of the scientific leaders in our field who either collaborated with or was deeply influenced by Dr. Snyder and his work. Each chapter represents a seminal paper published by Dr. Snyder and his colleagues. The wide range of topics includes the isolation, molecular characterization, and distribution of several brain receptors; the development of agonists and antagonists for these brain receptors; the pharmacology of antipsychotic and antidepressant agents; phosphoinositide and second-messenger systems; neural messengers of cell life and death; and what makes for creative discovery in science. In addition, the book is full of many interesting anecdotes about Dr. Snyder's life. Taken together, these components make for a wonderful and entertaining read.
Clearly, Dr. Snyder's work has been crucial in paving the way toward a better understanding of the biology of psychiatric disorders and addiction diseases, as well as drug discovery. His impact on our field cannot be underestimated. But it is a testament to Dr. Snyder's skill as a writer that what the reader will most likely take away from this book is not just an acknowledgment of Dr. Snyder's impressive scientific contributions to our field but also the engaging manner in which he approaches the intertwined processes of research, teaching, mentoring, and stimulating interest in scientific discovery. I highly recommend this book for all those interested in science, the process of discovery, and psychiatry.
The reviewer reports no competing interests.