Monday, September 20, 2010

Brain sense: The science of the senses and how we process the world around us

Book Club... And Then Some!

Brain sense: The science of the senses and how we process the world around us         

by Faith Hickman Brynie

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
This is a 274-page book with 26 pages of notes, two-and-one half pages of “Recommended Resources,” an eight-page index, and a 15-page “Appendix,” on the brain and the nervous system.  The point: the book is to be taken seriously.

There are 218 pages of content and 30 chapters; thus, each chapter averages about 7.3 pages long

Brynie explains her book in the preface: “It’s part memoir because it’s my opportunity to reminisce about some things I’ve learned from science and from life.  It’s part investigative reporting because I’ve delved into the work of some cutting-edge researchers who are designing clever experiments to gain answers to questions that we didn’t even know how to ask a decade ago.  It’s part biography because I want you to know—as I have come to know—what real scientists are like as they work in real labs on real questions that have never before been answered.  It’s part textbook because basic knowledge about how our senses work is important to everyone.  It’s part history because we can’t appreciate where we’re going if we don’t value where we’ve been.  It’s part newspaper because it contains some of the late-breaking stories that are making headlines on a daily basis.  It’s part travel journal because I invite you to fly with me as I visit working neuroscientists . . . . It’s part personality profiles because the scientists I met and talked with are intriguing people, doing interesting work and living full and satisfying lives . . .” (p. xiv).  She also adds that her book is a tribute to courage and to some wonderful people . . . and, too, a love letter to science and scientists.

Here is a warning to future readers of this book: It is so full of interesting details, fascinating anecdotes, findings that you will have trouble believing, personal insights and revelations, as well as a wealth of information about the way your brain works, that you will have trouble putting the book down.  The trouble is: it all relates to us personally and intimately.  I absolutely devoured Brynie’s every word.  (But I have to offer a caveat here: I studied science for five years as a pre-med student thinking he was going into medicine as a career; thus, I have more than just a simple curiosity about the kinds of things Brynie discusses.)

Annie, a neurology nurse, wrote the following as part of her review of Brynie’s book at “So, while you're getting the latest and greatest on sensory research, you also somehow come out of it with a lot more than you already knew about the fundamentals of the brain. I do this for a living, and I was still discovering new things on almost every page. I think this is a great recommendation for students, families of people with brain injuries, or just about anybody with a passion for discovering what those crazy scientists have come up with now.”

Well-written, down-to-earth, practical, and yet full of wonderfully interesting substance, this is a valuable book that is just plain fun to read.


This book is both available from Brain sense: The science of the senses and how we process the world around us

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