BOOKSHELF A few brain-science books that have recently caught our eye
Feeling & Knowing: Making Minds Conscious by Antonio Damasio, M.D., Ph.D. (Pantheon) Antonio Damasio, David Dornsife
From Survive to Thrive: Living Your
BY BRANDON BARRERA
Best Life with Mental Illness by Margaret S. Chisolm, M.D., with John Hanc (Johns
Projections: A Story of Human Emotions by Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D. (Random House) In a chapter from his memoir Projections , psychiatrist and
Hopkins University Press) Distilling years of experience and evidence-based research into this practical guidebook, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Margaret S. Chisolm believes that a healthy and fulfilling life is achievable for everyone. It is in this spirit that From Survive to Thrive markets itself as a resource to anyone finding themselves (or their loved ones) juggling personal problems and anxieties, those currently on antidepressants, and, of course, those who have been diagnosed with psychiatric illness. Chisolm admits the guide is not a panacea— each one of us has variables such that the road to well-being will be singular to our conditions. That is why the guidebook emphasizes the perspectives/pathway approach— four perspectives through which mental distress should be professionally assessed and four pathways of action (family, work, education, community) to well- being—as the analytical and practical toolset that will ultimately enable one to flourish. Will it take time? Yes, says Chisolm. The model she outlines is one shown to have borne positive results for not only many of her patients, but also herself. She hopes it will enable readers to live their best lives, too.
Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Philosophy at the University of Southern California, returns with another addition to his formidable catalog of works exploring consciousness. Feelings, Damasio says, are integral to the subjective experience, and in Feeling & Knowing , he explores the converging biological processes—in both brain and body—that produce consciousness. Encouraged by his editor to create a concise and focused volume, Damasio distills his ideas and theories on what constitutes the “mental experience” in a compact 180-plus pages, using recent findings across biology, psychology, philosophy, and physics as supporting evidence. His efforts make for an approachable text spanning the difference between feelings and emotion, the distinction between sensing and being conscious, the pivotal role homeostasis plays in creating our subjective experience, and why investigations of consciousness should probe beyond the brain and include the body. For Damasio, consciousness is a difficult, awe- inspiring problem, but it’s a problem with a solution, nonetheless. l
researcher Karl Deisseroth tells the story of a former patient, Winnie. Trained as both a lawyer and engineer, Winnie was admitted into emergency psychiatric care one day after accosting her law firm’s senior partner in his office and accusing him of conspiring against her. Under Deisseroth’s care, Winnie would develop a keen interest in the biological utility of schizophrenia, the brain disorder altering her thinking and sense of reality. Projections weaves together a trio of threads— Deisseroth’s journey as a psychiatrist, his patients’ stories, and the leaps in neuroscientific knowledge made possible by technological breakthroughs (e.g., optogenetics)— to explore what mental illness can teach us about human emotions. The recipe, as it turns out, is compelling. Within the case studies of patients living with eating disorders, autism, dementia, and other psychiatric diseases, Deisseroth illuminates the neural mechanisms of behavior and emotions while lacing the threads into a vibrant, tapestry, buzzing with humanity.
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