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The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions Paperback – May 7, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: W. H. Freeman (May 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716744457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716744450
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The immune system was long believed to be autonomous--unconnected to the brain; Sternberg, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, focuses here on research done over the last few decades that disproves this belief. She methodically details the history of this science--describing, for example, the Nobel prize-winning work of three French scientists who, in 1958, discovered the "interleukins" (molecules that signal between cells), which led to further investigations into how immune cells communicate with the brain, and discussing the seminal but controversial work of Hans Selye, who in the 1950s explored the body's response to stress. Although Sternberg leavens her account with anecdotes and historical snapshots of early medical treatment, her litany of scientific experiments (mostly performed on rats) into the body-mind connection may overwhelm readers without any scientific background. Of greater interest are her reflections on the implications of this research for maintaining health and treating disease. According to Sternberg, physical and psychological stresses--such as prolonged lack of sleep, divorce or social isolation--can make people sick by adversely affecting their immune and hormonal responses. Conversely, a strong belief in healing rituals and prayer may help make them well (via the placebo effect). All in all, Sternberg is optimistic about the idea of bridging disciplines to develop new treatments for disease. B&w illustrations. BOMC selection; author tour. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The director of the Molecular, Cellular, & Behavioral Interactive Neuroscience Program at the National Institutes of Health gives us one of the best recent books on emotions and health. Sternberg effectively draws on her ample research and clinical experience to provide detailed descriptions of the interrelationships of the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems and how they in turn relate to emotions and the body. Into her clear scientific exposition, she folds the lives and works of such fascinating researchers as Wilder Penfield and Hans Selye. She has the personal touch, as when she stresses the importance of face-to-face communication and contrasts it to the impersonal aspects of Internet communication. She has a feeling for place and vividly depicts Montreal and other settings. Finally, in her citation of medical cases, she enlightens and stimulates, as, for example, when in recalling a classic case of alert perception, she reveals the importance of total-body tattoos in the study of the lymphatic system. William Beatty --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

What I loved about the book is that it's written to adults and it's written very well.
Sternberg flies in the face of conventional medical wisdom by providing proof that stress can make you sick.
Eric Ehrmann
A book worth reading again and again that I have already recommended to anyone willing to listen to me.
Daniel Sanches

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 85 people found the following review helpful By D. Vaughan on January 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm an academic bioscientist but not trained in the immune system. I have always been interested in the brain-immune connection (for personal as well as professional reasons), and I have always appreciated getting the history of a scientific field's evolution -- something that we find less and less time to discuss in the college classroom, much to the detriment of the next generation of scientists. I am a huge fan of this book and this year I am incorporating it into my university courses and seminars. I've recommended it highly to colleagues who also find it valuable. It's fun to read and contains fascinating historical notes about medical science in general. Sternberg discusses how the work of many people contributed bits and pieces to an important emerging story. It gave me what felt like an eyewitness perspective on the birth of neuroimmunology, as well as a fountain of information about the brain-immune connection. It is a must-read for anyone wondering how science comes up with "breakthroughs", as well as anyone interested in the topic. Thank you, Dr. Sternberg and colleagues in the field.
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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Bladerunner B26354 on January 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Dr. Esther Sternberg from the outset tells us that she wrote this book "out of a question" that "seemed ostracized from the rest of the scientific community." Clearly, it seems that the information in "The Body Within" is a daring challenge to present new brain-immune connection information to the lay public, and is determined to not let it stagnate only among the doctoral elite. I found all 11 chapters fascinating and richly detailed, gloriously free of slanted opinions and filled with highly intelligent questions. All 250 pages inform, with its interesting anecdotes and illustrations, and my gratitude goes out to Dr. Sternberg for ensuring that some of us, even though we do not have a "Ph.D" attached to our name, are nonetheless able to grasp concepts as the workings of the brain, the immune system and the role of various hormones and neurotransmitters.

As a result, I learned much about neurochemistry and neuroscience from Dr. Sternberg who helped me make irrefutable connections between foods, moods, hormones and neurotransmitters. This means that everything that is taken into the body, or not taken into the body (e.g., starvation diets, which are extremely dangerous), affects how people drive or just behave in general. So there is a definite link between drivers education and neuroscience, although not readily apparent to the layperson. "The Balance Within" is solidly founded in irrefutable facts "collected from rigorously performed experiments." It is a real treat to read about such things as Chapter 5, "It's a Two-Way Street: The Immune System Talks to the Brain and the Brain Talks Back" and Chapters 6 and 7, "When the Brain-Immune Communication Breaks Down" and "Can Stress Make you Sick?
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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Eric Ehrmann on December 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am a writer who is currently at work on a book on my living through colon cancer. I was diagnosed at age 47 with Duke's C-3 colon cancer. Because of the early onset of my disease, I was three years too young to be considered for routine colon cancer screening, which doctors are supposed to offer to patients when they reach age 50. I was lucky. Even with one year of chemotherapy (due to minor lymph node involvement) medical textbooks and doctors said my chances of surviving five years (a five year colon cancer survivor is considered "cured") were about 35 percent. Now, seven years later, I can say that Esther Sternberg's work validates some key elements of the survival strategy I developed for myself that links health and wellness and emotions.
Sternberg flies in the face of conventional medical wisdom by providing proof that stress can make you sick. She provides evidence that the immune system can be trained, citing the work of Bob Ader and Nick Cohen. And she offers evidence that nerve chemicals or hormones can affect immune-cell function in a physiological way.
This is ironic considering that when you ask a psychiatrist or even a psychopharmachologist how the latest generation of SSRI anti-depression/anti-anxiety drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa etc.) work, the answer is that they are not exactly sure.
The medical establishment in the US tends to hive off the debate about health and emotions (the mind-body connection) to the area of alternative medicine. New age healing and some of the Eastern approaches tend to overlook the scientific connection. Sternberg taps history and science to frame the issue and if it were simpled down to the level of a mass market audience her book would be a best seller.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By O. Krasnykh on July 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, I have read Sapolsky's "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" 3rd ed. prior to reading this book. If I hadn't have done that, I would have given this book 5 stars-- it is well researched, well written, and is accessible for anyone regardless of science background. However, it is difficult to compete with Sapolsky, a prominent figure in the stress research field, in writing style with all his wit, charm, random anecdotes and the like. Also, Sapolsky's book is more up-to-date, has greater breadth, and, I feel, it is a little more substantial. However, I do feel like Sternberg's book may be a little more accessible to someone with no science background, while Sapolsky's may be difficult to follow, especially when he gets carried away with scientific terminology (though, I would still recommend sticking through those difficult parts, of which there are few, because the author never ceases to return from the heavily scientific woods with a quick and easy-to-grasp summary of the main points).
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