978-0-8160-3170-2 / 9780816031702

The Brain Encyclopedia


Publisher:Facts on File



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About the book:

The brain is all. It holds the scent of rain on hot tar, the taste of mom's chocolate-chip cookies, the itch on your ankle, and the image of that cottage by the sea. For centuries, though, how the brain actually functioned was one big mystery. Now that scientists are beginning to gain an understanding of where memory resides and how the brain works, Carol Turkington has compiled what's known about the brain in an accessible A-to-Z format, from the abducent nerve, responsible for the eye movements allowing you to read this sentence, to Young Adult Institute and Workshop, an agency that helps people with developmental disabilities or brain damage attain self-sufficiency.

It's a far-ranging and engrossing book. Turkington covers hard science in a straightforward fashion, rendering the medulla and melatonin into clear and readily understandable language, such that you needn't be a brain surgeon to comprehend what part they play in breathing, coughing, and gagging (the medulla) and sleep, jet lag, and manic depression (melatonin). And though there is a glossary in back that tackles industry terms such as axon, infarct, and vesicle, you rarely need to consult it. The Encyclopedia is more, however, than an anatomy text. In addition to articles on the brain's hardware, there are entries for diseases that affect the brain, treatments, and related sciences. For instance, Turkington explains the history of phrenology (the belief that skull structure is related to brain characteristics) and Pick's disease (a kind of dementia nearly indistinguishable from Alzheimer's), and cites Pythagoras as the philosopher who suggested that the brain was the home of man's mind and soul.

There's something for everyone, with up-to-date science on gender differences in the brain; an article on the many types of headaches, with their symptoms, causes, and treatments; plus appendices of self-help, professional, and government organizations dealing with brain diseases, research, and education. Turkington deftly explains the intricacies of the brain in such a way that the only prerequisite to understanding it is an interest in the subject. --Stephanie Gold

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