Susan Greenfield's book Brain Story is companion to the BBC television series of the same name. It attempts to explain the current state of knowledge in the neurosciences, a discipline that has made stunning advances over the last twenty years. It explores the structure and function of the brain, the myriad ways in which this immensely complex structure can go wrong, and the ingenious methods that research scientists have used to figure out how our signal organ works. Greenfield uses damaged brains, with one everyday function removed, to show how the whole should work. This works to hold our human interest in the stories of those with Alzheimer's, hydrocephalus, brain tumours and other brain function limiting damage, without turning the individuals involved into marginalised freaks.
Like most books in this particular hybrid genre, Brain Story is a glossy, smartly produced coffee-table book, long on illustrations and photographs and short on detail, but an interesting read, nevertheless. As Greenfield admits in the preface "The viewers, we decided, were not about to take an exam in neuroscience, and therefore we did not need detailed or exhaustive facts". Fair enough. But it is interesting to compare Brain Story with other popular science books on the market, including Greenfield's own The Private Life of the Brain and realise the full extent to which science is dumbed down for television audiences. However, as an introduction to the inside of our heads and a tale of great human as well as scientific interest, Brain Story is able to stand alone, even if viewers of the TV series will not find further enlightenment here. -- Chris Lavers