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Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings 1st Edition

37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195388541
ISBN-10: 0195388542
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An absolutely fascinating read (or book) peppered with gems of surprising information on how certain foods, plants, nicotine and drugs (legal and illegal) alter the very essence of your brain cells' functioning and thus your behavior and mood. Don't deprive yourself of the pleasure of reading it." --Jean Carper, author of Your Miracle Brain and 100 Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer's and Age-Related Memory Loss. "Your Brain on Food provides ample and important food for thought in a delightfully written reader-friendly style. Kernels of history sprinkled throughout the book provide both interest and insight into how our appetites influence our brains and, and thus, our thoughts and actions. Gary Wenk has provided a compelling and much-needed antidote to commonly available misinformation about nutrients and brain function. Readers will be richly informed--as well as entertained." --James L. McGaugh, Research Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine "All of us are impacted by a bewildering array of psychoactive drugs and foods, some being agents of abuse and others being of importance in treating disease. Gary Wenk, a nationally eminent neuroscientist, provides a gripping account of the neurotransmitters that enable neurons in the brain to talk to each other and shows how drugs as well as substances derived from foods exert their psychoactive influences. Wenk has a gift for making complex concepts crystal clear and relating seemingly arcane science in a fascinating, lucid fashion--as gripping as a detective story. This is an invaluable book for anyone who is curious about the brain and its functions." --Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., Distinguished Service Professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University "Intriguing" --Scientific American MIND

About the Author


Gary L. Wenk is a Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience & Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics at the Ohio State University and Medical Center.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195388542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195388541
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.8 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary L. Wenk, a Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience & Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics at the Ohio State University and Medical Center, is a leading authority on the consequences of chronic brain inflammation and animal models of Alzheimer's disease. He is also a member of the OSU Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair. He received a B.A. degree in psychology and biology from Albion College and a Ph.D. in Neurotoxicology from the University of Cincinnati. He then trained as a post-doctoral fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He joined the faculty of the Departments of Psychology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University for nine years and also served as a Program Director for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory & Biological Basis of Behavior Program, Division of Behavioral and Neural Sciences, at the National Science Foundation. For the next 15 years he was a Professor in the Departments of Psychology & Neurology at the University of Arizona and a member of the Division of Neural Systems, Memory & Aging. He is a recipient of the Vernon & Virginia Furrow Excellence in Teaching Award and the Five Star Faculty Teaching Award. Professor Wenk's research is focused upon the investigation of drugs that can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and rescue the brain from the consequences of normal and pathological aging. He has been interviewed about his work by many magazines and radio stations, including NPR, WBZ, WJR, ABC & CBS News, & WABC, numerous local and national television programs, including CNN, and was interviewed by Amanada Productions for a 2-hr TV documentary on the topic of cognitive enhancers.

In 2008, Professor Wenk was elected to the rank of Fellow at the American Assosciation for the Advancement of Science for distinguished contributions in the field of neuropharmacology, neurodegenerative diseases and neuroinflammatory processes. This rank was first given in 1874 to members of AAAS whose "efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Martin D Ronan on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This was a pretty decent book. It discussed chemicals found in nature and their effects on your brain. The title is very misleading though. It discussed almost nothing about normal food you eat, but rather drugs like cocaine, nicotine, etc. Aside from coffee and chocolate there are few foods discussed. I doubt the author chose that title. I bet it was the marketing people who pushed it to sell more books. For misleading the reader I give a C+ to this book.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By buckeye10 on August 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have had the pleasure of taking Dr. Wenk's class titled "Drugs and Behavior" at The Ohio State University as an undergraduate and I have to say that this book incorporates the best things from the class including Dr. Wenk's own research, odd stories from college students experimenting with drugs such as caffeine and marijuana, his extensive knowledge on neuroscience and its history - all influenced in the telling by his hilarious, dry humor.

The book explores an incredible number of topics ranging from the history of the drug which killed King Hamlet in Shakespeare's play to how Advil works in your brain to stop you from aching in pain. Although Dr. Wenk describes a lot of neuroscience concepts and terms, he always does an excellent job of explaining background information while simultaneously teaching you something new. This is including the concise paragraphs of summary at the end of every chapter which state the big picture.

I'm particularly interested in how the brain works and different types of the neurotransmitters but what I enjoyed most about this book is the cultural and historical contexts of drugs from around the world. For example, there exists a certain mushroom which, when ingested, produces a type of hallucination which causes people to see normal objects a lot bigger or smaller than they actually are. This mushroom and its effect could very well have influenced Lewis Carroll while he was writing Alice in Wonderland (as seen in Alice's adventure in a land of size disproportions). Now this statement is definitely something everyone would be interested in learning, especially at cocktail hour!

EDIT: The real title for this book should be "Your Brain on Drugs.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Burgundy Damsel VINE VOICE on March 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The title and subtitle of this book were highly misleading; there was almost nothing about food, thoughts and feelings. Although stuffed with useful and potentially interesting information, the book primarily dealt with the neurochemical details of how drugs affect the body and interact with the brain to create the sensations one experiences.

The transitions between new examples and topics were lacking, making the book feel somewhat choppy, and I found the author's constant, unnecessary references to evolution both annoying and distracting.

Unless you're specifically looking for a primer on drug interaction, I strongly recommend The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children, Potatoes Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity or Natural Prozac: Learning to Release Your Body's Own Anti-Depressants instead - all will be much more useful in exploring the affects of food on mood and human functioning.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Maureen L. Buck on January 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an aging adult, I feel the title is misleading. I was looking forward to learning about the effects of food on the brain because that is how I interpreted the title.

For anyone who is raising children and wants to know how drugs affect the brain, this is an excellent book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Taylor McNeil on October 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Truth be told, the title of this book is a bit of a misnomer. It should be called Your Brain on Chemicals, because that's what Wenk spends most of the book discussing. And even more to the point, what Wenk accomplishes in a scant 165 pages is a wonderful tour of the brain and how it works, at least the parts that especially affect thoughts, feelings, and memories. I'd never been able to understand the difference between glutamate and GABA, let alone what an "action potential" is, but in Wenk's hands, these concepts were all easy to grasp. He's got a wonderfully light touch, too, that helps as he makes some very difficult concepts become clear.

One of the main points in his tour of the brain and how chemicals affect it--and thus our moods, thoughts, and actions--is that for chemicals to affect our brains, they must have an exact analogue in our many different kinds of neurotransmitters. How does marijuana affect the brain, for example? Its key molecules are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, and latch onto like minded neurotransmitters, and produce a distinct effect. The same is true of all drugs that affect us, and, yes, some foods, too.

Wenk ends with a discussion of what he calls "brain enhancement and other magical beliefs." Sure, he says, you can load up on caffeine and other drugs, and they speed up your brain's processing, but none of them make you any smarter. Likewise, nothing's going to stop the normal effects of aging on your brain and eventual cognitive decline. Still, understanding how the brain works--at least a little more than I did before--makes me feel a bit smarter, another benefit to this excellent book.
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