I should start by conveying that I have encountered the basics of the brain -- neurons (and their components, both internal and external), neurotransmitters, and common neurological diseases -- on numerous occasions. However, I had only come across the most basic explanations of what glial cells (neuroglia) were for; and some questions about long-term potentiation and its catalysts remained unclear.
I had long pondered how signal paths being strengthened by mere traffic-load could possibly lead to worthwhile consolidation of experiences. Moreover, it always occurred to me that simply amplifying an active signal pathway could all-too-easily promote destructive feedback conditions. Thus, an out-of-band oversight seems most appropriate, and glia may be an important key to this puzzle.
There are many other topics of new covered herein; thus I could not possibly discuss in this review all that I found interesting in this book; but in general, I found this audiobook most enlightening upon those topics too commonly overlooked when the brain is introductorily explained. In fact, failing to witness the breadth of additional knowledge and speculation of current times may be utter folly for anyone seeking intracranial literacy; and of this writing, in Jan 2012, The Other Brain seems a magnificent initiation.
I congratulate the authors, editors, and other contributors of this text (and audiobook) for unleashing such a sea of wonder.
About the recording: The narration was clear and easy-to-understand. The added emotion and expressionism helped to maintain my attention.
This audiobook caught my attention since I thought it might provide insights into problems with modern psychiatry. In fact, the narration was pretty good, giving it a serious and somewhat determined read.
Unfortunately, I expected too much. The first three or so hours were mostly spent ranting about Sigmund Freud and select other figures from around Freud’s time, where most of the attack was on the character of the people rather than the actual psychological paradigms they devised. No doubt, certain old psychological philosophies were fraught with questionable explanations and diagnostic procedures, but few modern psychologists rely on such tactics today. Basing its primary arguments against such paradigms as Psychoanalysis and such persons as Franz Mesmer, the mesmeriser, this book is clearly attacking some of the weakest, most outdated beliefs in the entire field.
The author’s most repeated argument, or statement, is that “there is no such thing as mental illness”. He basically dismisses psychology and psychiatry as falsehoods that study a “mind” that “does not exist”. His arguments against the existence of mental disorders are weaker than even the most speculative psychoanalytic theories, making him quite a hypocrite. His primary premise is effectively “If there is no apparent lesion or other abnormality visible in the brain under a microscope, then no illness is present”. His reasoning here is like saying “the pages of words in book x look very much like the pages of words in book y, and since book x has no logical fallacies, book y must also be free from any such problems”. Being that his original thesis and books were written in the 50s and 60s, I guess it is no surprise that he is ignorant about many of the functional abnormalities of the brain that are now easier to recognise using fMRI and newer techniques, and about the enlarged cerebral ventricles of persons with advanced schizophrenia. Psychology and cognitive neuroscience are continually advancing, but the author seems to be stuck in the easier-to-refute past and fixated on characters rather than concepts.
The next biggest argument of his can be summed-up as follows: “Since people are capable of imitation and since a number of practitioners have witnessed patients lying about having mental illness, all claims of mental illness, whether from patient or from practitioner, are completely fabricated”. Moreover, no grounds are provided to support this inductive assertion.
I should let you know, I do believe that a fair share of psychiatrists are illegitimate practitioners who make hasty, shadily-supported diagnoses with catch-all labels, and I do believe that psych-drugs are often prescribed or pushed when other options are more appropriate; but the author’s extreme position that mental disorders do not exist, and that anyone claiming they do is a liar, is exceedingly callous. Feel free to buy this audiobook if you want an outdated rant, entrenched with shallow, poorly-supported arguments.
Admittedly, this is my first experience with a medical language book, so my intent here is not to compare this book with others.
I have now listened to 6 of the 19 chapters. The narration is excellent and very clear. In each chapter, there are a series of stages with which the words and their meanings are presented. Each important word is mentioned again in each stage, but from a different perspective. In this process, the body systems involved are explained so that the listener knows how all the components relate; And near the end, there are a couple of stages where the listener can test his or her memory of the important words and their meanings. The staged approach seems effective at consolidating the knowledge, particularly with how quickly new words, meanings, and systems are introduced in the first couple of stages of each chapter.
Now, I do not expect that I will remember all the words after just one listening, being that I have no prior (comprehensive) experience or text to go along with the audio, but my primary goal of at least gaining knowledge of the foreign word-forms (in Latin, Greek, et cetera) seems to be ossifying. Also, the inherent introduction to the various body systems and how they work is a very welcome addition to the language itself (at least for me).
Overall, I have enjoyed the listen so far, and I definitely recommend this audio-book to any audio-goers wanting a thorough, quality introduction to medical terminology.
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