LLH Mass Mental Health Center Boston, 1960
LLH Mass Mental Health Center Boston, 1960

Medical research strides will not undercut role of psychiatry

SAN FRANCISCO — The “remarkable” discoveries of molecular biology and the “power and precision” of chemistry and physics are in danger of segregating psychiatry from the rest of medicine, according to Leston L. Havens, M.D principal psychiatrist at Massachusetts Mental Health Center and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Although agreeing that great molecular advances are yet to come, he took issue with the expectation that all aspects of human malfunctioning will eventually be manageable at the cellular level. “Certainly it would be convenient if they were – if we could immunize against the great crises of life. It is obvious that we cannot do this any more than we expect to learn a foreign language by changing our diets or taking a pill,” he said at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

— Roche Report Frontiers in Psychiatry

“The whole psychiatric enterprise is corrupted by the fact that you do not have ways of testing what you know. The theory may go off in any direction because we don’t have the fundamental thing that I learned from medicine, the testing procedures.

It made me very glad that I had gone to medical school. One of the ironical things that is happening in our world today is that there has appeared in the medical environment in the medical schools an in dominate Trojan horse and that is the new knowledge of the brain.

The medical people are fostering, we are all fostering, an understanding of the brain which is completely different than what I was brought up on. I was brought up on a brain which is a grey blob which could never be changed.

Today we have a brain that is a suitable vehicle for the mind. It’s plasticity is the most phenomenal discovery in medicine, in my opinion, in the last 20 or 30 years, much more than the DNA Sequence. The brain is literally formed by experience. It’s shaped. It’s subtle variations are formed by experience. That will restore the whole environmental inference, bringing the environmental influence to medicine whether it wants it or not. That’s a source of hope.” unpublished interview 1995

Havens, LL and Child CG III: Recurrent psychosis associated with liver disease and elevated blood ammonia. New England Journal of Medicine, 252:756-759, 1955

Havens, LL; Harty, F and Cawte, J: Cutis anserina: its value in the prognosis of mental illness. Journal of Mental Science, 105:833-839, 1959 (Wolters Kluwer remains the copyright holder of the article. For reprints contact Silvia.Serra@wolterskluwer.com)

Havens, LL and Foote, W: A method for controlling the extent of partial perception in experiments on “subliminal” perception. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 12:263-269, 1961 (Contact the journal website or The Center for The History of Medicine, The Countway Library Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA)

Havens, LL: The placement and movement of hallucinations in space: phenomenology and theory. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 43:426-435, 1962 (Contact journal or The Center for The History of Medicine, The Countway Library Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA)

Havens, LL and Foote, WE: The effect of competition on visual duration threshold and its independence of stimulus frequency. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65:6-11, 1963 (Contact the journal website or The Center for The History of Medicine, The Countway Library Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA)

Havens and Foote Kodak graph circa 1960's
Havens and Foote Kodak graph circa 1960’s

Havens, LL and Foote, WE: Structural features of competitive response. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 19:75-80, 1964 (Contact the journal website or the Countway History of Medicine Library to access article)

Foote, WE and Havens, LL: Stimulus frequency: determinant of perception of response. Psychonomic Science, 2:153-154, 1965 (Contact the journal website or the Countway History of Medicine Library to access article)

Trials and tribulations in publishing an article, letter to Warren Foote, Ph.D., October 6, 1966

Foote, WE and Havens, LL: Differential effects of stimulus frequency and graphic configuration in free and forced choice experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73:340-346, 1967 (Contact the journal website or the Countway History of Medicine Library to access article)

Barnes, F; Vaillant, G; Havens, LL and Barnhill A: A new approach to the study of psychogenic disturbances. New England Journal of Medicine, 283:959-963, 1970

Havens, LL: “A reappraisal of the dementia praecox concept” – in agreement and disagreement (critical evaluation of “A reappraisal of the dementia praecox concept” by A Kris). International Journal of Psychiatry, 10:45-47, 1972

Havens, LL & Miller S: Discussion of “Psychosocial aspects of medical practice” by M Green. Psychiatric Spectator, 3:13-16, 1972. Also appeared in Science and Psychoanalysis edited by J Masserman. New York: Grune and Stratton, 1972 (Contact the journal website or the Countway History of Medicine Library to access article)

Havens, LL: Review of Medicine in the Law by J Cawte. American Journal of Psychiatry, December 1975 (Contact the journal website or the Countway History of Medicine Library to access article)

Havens and Cawte Sydney harbor Australia, 1974
Havens and Cawte Sydney harbor Australia, 1974

Havens, LL: The need for tests of normal functioning in the psychiatric interview. American Journal of Psychiatry, 141:1208-1211, 1984 (Contact the journal website or the Countway History of Medicine Library to access article)

Havens, LL & Palmer HL: Forms, difficulties and tests of empathy. The Hillside Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,6:285-291, 1984

Havens, LL: Review of Personality and Disease by H S Friedman. The New England Journal of Medicine, 324(11):780, 1991

Havens, L.: Is psychoanalysis an experimental procedure or a reflection of subjective life? Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67 (2), 295-308, 1998

Havens, L: Soundings: a psychological equivalent of medical percussion. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 9, 147-157, 2001.