- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Later Printing Used edition (November 17, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060930721
- ISBN-13: 978-0060930721
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 90 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine Later Printing Used Edition
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“Persuasive, impassioned... hopeful news [for those] suffering from functional bowel disease.” (New York TimesBook Review)
“In The Second Brain, Gershon makes a persuasive, impassioned and, at times, downright lyrical case...the book succeeds in presenting an often grim and complex topic in a surprisingly witty and engaging manner.” (Jacqueline Boone, The New York Times Book Review)
“An interesting treatise that records the rediscovery of the importance of the nervous system in the abdominal organs, this book provides an opportunity for lay readers to explore the fascination of the Second Brain and the scientists who discover its marvels...Dr. Gershon documents this new renaissance in enteric neuroscience.” (Michael Camilleri, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Physiology, Mayo Foundation, Gastroenterology Research Unit)
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.
Top customer reviews
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In Part I, the author discloses that he rediscovered that human beings have essentially a third nervous system or rather nervous/motor system. The first one is the voluntary skeletal one whereby your brain essentially controls all your voluntary actions through orders transmitted with the acetylcholine neurotransmitter among many others. The second one is the involuntary automatic one that controls most of your physiological necessities and responses (breathing, cardiovascular system functioning, glands, visceral muscles, etc.). It is governed by the peripheral central nervous system (spinal cord, etc.). This system is subdivided into two. One is the sympathetic one that responds to the neurotransmitter noripenephrine (a precursor of adrenaline) and is responsible for the flight-or-fight mechanism among many other reflexive reactions. The other one if the parasympathetic nervous system that responds to the acetylcholine neurotransmitter that governs many physiological activities. In addition, the author’s contribution to the field is his rediscovering a third and pretty independent nervous system: enteric nervous system governing your digestive system (your gut) through the neurotransmitter serotonin. He states that he “rediscovered” the enteric nervous system because it was first discovered by an earlier set of scientists a long time ago. Bayliss and Starling came up with the “Law of the Intestine” in the 1890s; Langley publishes his seminal book on the subject “The Autonomic Nervous System” in 1921. Both treaties described the workings of the enteric nervous system in detail. And, Gershon graciously gives them full credit for their work.
If you find the above paragraph too heavy going, this book is not for you. The above paragraph is a piece of cake compared to the real thing: an 80 page Part I with many more details describing cellular level physiological reactions entirely unfamiliar to a lay public. Also, the author imparts some drama regarding the rather Galilean reception he got from other neuroscientists for re-advancing the theories of the gut having its own independent nervous system. Later, when he is able to turn things around and finally convince the world that the enteric nervous system is real, he spends an entire 33 pages on a single event, a neuroscientist convention workshop that took place in Cincinnati, where he presented his theories and they were finally well accepted. He describes in extensive details his friends and foes participants at this convention. It is interesting to a certain point. Lay readers will probably feel that this topic warranted no more than 8 pages instead of 33.
The remainder of the book, beyond Part I, continues to read as something like a graduate school biochemistry textbook. The New York Times Book Review that is quoted on the cover page as stating regarding this book: “Persuasive, impassioned… hopeful news [for those] suffering from functional bowel disease” has most probably had no staffer actually reading this book. That’s because it has very little practical health advice. It mentions that modern anti-depressants (SSRIs) are really bad for your intestine because their reuptaking serotonin does reduce the amount of serotonin generated by your intestine and greatly affects your digestive function. Also, dietary fiber is really good for you because it enhances the muscular fitness of your colon. And, that’s it as far as practical health advice goes. As far as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the author goes on an entire chapter (chapter 8. A Bad Bowel) how that disease is really ill-defined and is a catch all for all sorts of digestive ailments that the medical profession does not understand and does not know how to cure. In view of that the anthological comments by The New York Times Book Review are really inaccurate.
I have used his remarkable work as a primary reference in my own book to further validate psychological findings in my own clinical studies on the intelligence of the gut instincts and a new gut psychology. Without his work, my thesis would have lacked the neurologicaI and biological validation it needed to come forth as a viable new theory in modern psychological thought. I highly recommend Dr. Michael Gershon's groundbreaking book.
author of What's Behind Your Belly Button?: A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct
As a layperson, you do have to be prepared to not really understand all the biochemistry and anatomy, but he does a surprisingly good job of making it easy to get the picture even if you don't follow all the neurotransmitters - I finally understand the gall bladder! And there's a lot of touches of humor and some anecdotes that make it quite pleasant reading.
I have given this book 4 stars because it is very detailed and well written regarding the biological explanations - both general structural, neurological, and biochemically regarding the functioning of the gut. And although too dense in biological terminology and substance to be a New York Times best seller contender, it is good for what it is. If you want to learn all the chemical names for the enzymes and neurotransmitters in the gut, this is where you'll find that alphabet soup. I will give the author kudos for injecting a certain amount of intellectual humor from time to time as well.
It did not, unfortunately, give any insights into the questions for which it was purchased. I think the author's own words on page 310 explains it best. "I did not intend this book to be a "how to" document, explaining to readers how to cope with a variety of gastrointestinal complaints.... I would like the readers of this book to realize that the rediscovery of the brain in their bowel is a breakthrough for hope. The focus of scientific attention on the second brain holds within it is a great potential, some of it already realized, for understanding how to treat and prevent gastrointestinal disease. The realization that an independent center of integrative nervous activity lurks inside the abdomen has become a magnet for attracting good research."
Most recent customer reviews
So totally boring...