Today's pharmacological solutions for mental illnesses fall short because we still don't grasp the true complexity of the human brain. Synesthesia research highlights this point perfectly.
Until fairly recently, many scientists (not Richard Cytowic) believed that the information gathered by each of the senses touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste was processed in separate areas of the brain. However, new research from Yale on synesthesia is now revealing that there is a complex interaction between the senses in the brainan interaction that enables us to understand the world in a unified way.
From Yale: "A common type of synesthesia is colored-hearing. People with this condition see specific colors in their minds eye when they hear words, letters or numbers spoken out loud. For the blind people with colored hearing, the meaning of a word, rather than its sound alone, seems to be important. For example, when the word March was used in a sentence to mean a particular month of the year, one volunteer saw a dark greeny blue color. But when he heard the same word used as a verb (The soldiers march across the bridge.) he did not see a color."
Highlighting the brain's complexity more, Sandra Blakesly in "How Does the Brain Work?" describes the complexity of just the neocortex...."Stretched flat, the human neocortex the center of our higher mental functions is about the size and thickness of a formal dinner napkin. With 100 billion cells, each with 1,000 to 10,000 synapses, the neocortex makes roughly 100 trillion connections and contains 300 million feet of wiring packed with other tissue into a one-and-a-half-quart volume in the brain.
She goes on, "But how to put it back together? How to understand something so complex by examining it piecemeal? Even harder, how to integrate the different levels of analysis? Some brain events occur in fractions of milliseconds while others, like long-term memory formation, can take days or weeks. One can study molecules, ion channels, single neurons, functional areas, circuits, oscillations and chemistry."
It is for this reason that the Human Brain Project remains a critical component in helping us understand how all of these different pieces fit together, giving rise to consciousness itself.