Before consulting with customer service, it's always a good idea to read the manual. Psychiatrist John Ratey has condensed years of research on one of the most intimidating yet ubiquitous pieces of hardware in the world into the ever-handy User's Guide to the Brain. More intellectually stimulating than day-to-day practical, the Guide uses tales from Ratey's practice and other clinical venues, tidbits from neuroscientific research, and plain common sense to suggest how the brain develops and manifests personality and behavior. With section titles like "Free Will and the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus," many readers will feel intimidated, but Ratey is careful to direct his explanations to all--even those without a PhD in neuroanatomy. His interesting four-theater theory of mental function is the most directly practical section of the book, incorporating the author's years of experience with patients into a sensible framework that readers can use to better tune their own systems. Describing the changing of the guard from psychoanalysis to a more biological paradigm, Ratey writes:
Neuroscientists have, in a sense, simply taken over the elite, almost clerical office once held by analysts. The language used to describe the brain is, if anything, more opaque than any of the old psychoanalytic terminology, which was itself so obscure that only trained professionals could wade through the literature. Most people never even bother to learn such terminology, deeming that, like the language of the computer scientists of the early 1970s, it is better left to the nerds.
Determined to help us overcome our sense of helplessness in matters cranial, Ratey has shown that we can understand ourselves better and can learn quite a bit from the nerds. --Rob Lightner
From Library Journal
New developments in brain research seem to be constantly announced these days, so a competent description of the latest results for the lay reader is always welcome. Ratey, a specialist in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, organizes his material by functional categoryDdevelopment, perception, attention, memory, emotion, language, and socialization. The "Four Theaters" of the subtitle don't appear until the penultimate chapter, where the metaphor is confusingly mixed with that of the brain as a river. The final chapter, "Care and Feeding," makes the expected suggestions for keeping the brain sharp: physical and mental exercise, good nutrition, and the positive impact of spirituality on mental health. Pierce J. Howard's The Owner's Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research (Bard Pr., 2000. 2d ed.) is a better choice, although A User's Guide would be an acceptable addition for larger public libraries.DMary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA
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