Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist and writer who practised in London, but now lives on the Isle of Skye, where he continues to write and make a living by lecturing.
He is committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise – the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains.
He was a late entrant to medicine. After a scholarship to Winchester College, he was awarded a scholarship to New College, Oxford, where he read English. He won the Chancellor’s English Essay Prize and the Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize in 1974 and graduated (with congratulated 1st Class Hons) in 1975 (MA 1979). He was awarded a Prize Fellowship of All Souls College, Oxford in 1975, teaching English literature and pursuing interests in philosophy and psychology between 1975 and 1982. He then went on to train in medicine, and during this period All Souls generously re-elected him to a further Fellowship (1984-1991), and again in 2002 (to 2004).
He was formerly a Consultant Psychiatrist of the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley NHS Trust in London, where he was Clinical Director of their southern sector Acute Mental Health Services. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and is specially approved by the Secretary of State under Section 12(2) of the Mental Health Act, 1983. He trained at the Maudsley Hospital in London, working on specialist units including the Neuropsychiatry and Epilepsy Unit, the Children’s Unit and the Forensic Unit, as well as, at Senior Registrar level, the National Psychosis Referral Unit and the National Eating Disorder Unit. During this period he also worked as a Research Fellow in neuroimaging at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA. His clinical experience has been broad-based, and he has run a busy Community Mental Health Team in an ethnically diverse and socially deprived area of south London. He is interested in a wide range of psychiatric conditions, including depression, psychosis, personality disorders (especially borderline personality disorder), anxiety disorders, chronic low self-esteem, phobias, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as neuropsychiatry.
He has published original articles in a wide range of papers and journals, including the Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, The Listener, Essays in Criticism, Modern Language Review, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, BMJ, English Historical Review, British Journal of Psychiatry, and American Journal of Psychiatry, on topics in literature, medicine and psychiatry, and has published original research on neuroimaging in schizophrenia, the phenomenology of schizophrenia, and other topics. He took part in a two-part Channel 4 documentary, Soul Searching, in 2003. His first book, Against Criticism, was published by Faber in 1982, and dates from before his medical training, but deals with issues of the wholeness, uniqueness and embodied nature of the work of art, which are continuous with his current concern, the relationship between the history of ideas and shifts in brain hemisphere function, a topic which he has been researching for 20 years, and which is the subject of a recent book published by Yale University Press, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.
His other interests include the relationship between creativity and mental illness, and he is currently working on a number of books: a critique of contemporary society and culture from the standpoint of neuropsychology; a study of the paintings of subjects with schizophrenia; a series of essays about culture and the brain with subjects from Andrew Marvell to Serge Gainsbourg; and a short book of reflections on spiritual experience.