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The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time Paperback – March 1, 2015
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From the Publisher
From the Book: The 'Feeling' Brain
In contrast to the highly evolved prefrontal cortex, the limbic system is an ancient collection of structures located much deeper in the brain (even early mammals one hundred million years ago had limbic systems). The limbic system is the emotional part of the brain and is responsible for things like excitement, fear, anxiety, memory, and desire. It is primarily composed of four regions: the hypothalamus, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the cingulate cortex. The hypothalamus controls stress. The amygdala is the key to reducing anxiety, fear, and other negative emotions. The hippocampus is responsible for creating long-term memories, and because its neurons are very sensitive to stress, it often acts as the canary in the coal mine of depression. Lastly, the cingulate cortex controls focus and attention, which is of huge importance in depression, because what you focus on, whether by automatic habit or willful choice, makes a huge difference to your mood.
Elyn Saks, Orrin B. Evans Professor of law, psychology, psychiatry, and the behavioral sciences at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and author of The Center Cannot Hold
Anson Dorrance, head coach of the UNC-Chapel Hill Women's Soccer team and coauthor of The Vision of a Champion
Helen S. Mayberg, professor of psychiatry in neurology and radiology, and Dorothy C. Fuqua Chair in psychiatric neuroimaging and therapeutics at Emory University School of Medicine
About the Author
Foreword writer Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is executive director of the Mindsight Institute and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. He is author of The Developing Mind, The Mindful Brain, and other books, and founding editor of the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology.
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The Upward Spiral stands out from the pack for three significant reasons:
1. It's based in evidence.
This book isn't made up of snake oil panaceas, or Hallmark platitudes, or overblown pep-talk rhetoric. It's built on a foundation of clinical trials and observations of the brain, as up-to-date with contemporary neuroscience as possible.
2. It reads well.
The problem with writing based on scientific evidence often ends up being that the prose is dry and boring, or patronizingly dumbed-down, or frustratingly abstract. Korb is no Adam Phillips, but he writes about the structure and function of the brain more clearly than anyone else I've read in the past, frequently deploying effective analogies to familiar objects and ideas.
3. It includes advice.
Another problem with some science-based texts is that knowing what synapses fire at what time doesn't really help you figure out what to do outside your skull. Korb gives a suggestion on practically every page.
This book isn't going to cure you. It addresses a specific aspect of depression: the way symptoms reinforce themselves and inspire new ones, resulting in the downward spiral that drags you down to your deepest depths. The optimistic implication of the title is that just like a small trigger can drag you down, an effective intervention can start enough momentum to carry you up.
I'm of the belief that if you're depressed, you probably have to figure out how and why it started, and determine what specific patterns of thought originated as a result. That means seeing a therapist or analyst, possibly for a long time. But in the meantime, you have to get yourself out of bed every day, and this book gives you some idea how. To my knowledge, it's the best of its kind.