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The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine Paperback – November 17, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0060930721 ISBN-10: 0060930721

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (November 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060930721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060930721
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Persuasive, impassioned... hopeful news [for those] suffering from functional bowel disease." -- -- New York TimesBook Review

"Persuasive, impassioned... hopeful news [for those] suffering from functional bowel disease." -- New York TimesBook Review

About the Author

Michael D. Gershon M.D., is chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Very interesting book.
SherryLee
This is an engaging personal story of the discovery of a neurotransmitter important in the brain and the gastrointestinal system in humans.
E. Tapper
The tour of the GI is well done and includes all the important things one would want to know.
Patrick D. Goonan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

280 of 283 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gershon's book is really two books in one: a memoir or exposition of all that is involved in medical research (including the politics), and a detailed explanation of the neuroscience and neurochemistry of the enteric nervous system (e.g., digestive tract). This is not a simple book to read -- it takes concentration, and I certainly had my highlighter out to draw attention to several terms or ideas I wanted to recall. The narrative can get fairly scientific, but to add to your understanding the author uses commonplace allegories or diagrams -- and just when it starts to get too "heavy", he gives you a break by turning autobiographical, telling stories about his research community that are very interesting. This isn't a textbook, but rather a lengthy exposition on a man's search for scientific truth. I am a scientist myself and often wonder what draws an individual to a focused "obsession" with a single idea, and Gershon in his pursuit of knowledge through experimentation and conceptualization gave me insights into one type of scientific mind. The digestive system, via Gershon's work, is the source of neurotransmitters, so there is a substantial amount of information here for anyone interested in neurology, neuroscience, psychiatry, and of course the behavior of the digestive tract. This is not a book for anyone who has a digestive problem who wants a cure -- it is a book for understanding digestion and/or the nervous system. However, if you are interested in deep science, this is one of the best written and thorough books I've read.
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181 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Mark Mills on June 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
This has been a challenging book to read, but well worth the effort. It is a peculiar mix of memoir and introductory textbook on the enteric (gut) system. I found myself woefully unprepared to consume the text. Gershon has tried to write for the lay reader, but that lay reader had better be comfortable with organic chemistry. Despite the jargon, Gershon's enthusiasm is infectious. This would be a great gift for any pre-med student in need of inspiration.

The title is somewhat misleading. 'The second brain' is a catchy phrase, but only token effort is made to prove the assertion. In simple terms, Gershon argues:
1. At the cellular level, enteric neurology uses the same building blocks as spinal neurology, so there is no evidence enteric neurology couldn't be a second brain.
2. The fundamental process managed by enteric neurology is the peristaltic reflex.
3. The peristaltic reflex requires sophisticated neurological controls for managing
a) motion of food through the gut
b) control of pH, viscosity, appropriate digestive enzyme, etc.
4. Since the gut can function adequately despite cutting the neural connection between spine (brain) and gut, the neural mass in the gut must constitute an independent cognitive center (brain).

The first 100 pages address Gershon's efforts to prove enteric neurology uses the same neurotransmitters as the spinal chord. The second 100 pages offers a tour of the gut, starting at the mouth and walking down the lining to the colon. The final section provides a blow-by-blow description of his lab's trial-and-error experimental approach to enteric developmental neurology, with emphasis on microbiological techniques for examining the neural crest's role.
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94 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Patrick D. Goonan on March 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michael Gershon is a gifted writer and equally gifted scientist. He takes the world of the gut and explains its workings in great detail eliminating historical misunderstandings and common misperceptions along the way.

I thought his development of the history of the branches of the nervous system was fascinating and demonstrated some of the politics and the effects of unexamined assumptions on how scientific discoveries are interpreted.

There is an extensive section on the use of various toxins to discover how the nervous system was organized and this section is developed very logically and includes a lot of interesting scientific history. Sometimes, it included more than I wanted to know, but I must say he was very comprehensive.

This book is also well organized in thorough in every respect. The tour of the GI is well done and includes all the important things one would want to know.

I have a very good background in biology and for me this book was a pleasant read. However, it is not always an easy read and it certainly doesn't read like a dime store novel. It is a book that is intellectually challenging, but fascinating and relatively easy to read considering the scope and depth of the topic.

This is not a quick fix manual for people with gastrointestinal ailments. It is more about how the gut is built and how it works. It would be useful book for someone with gastrointestinal ailments for understanding this part of the body, but the emphasis is not on disease mechanisms and treatments. If that is the only thing you are looking for, then this book may not be for you.
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