Cerebrum Winter 2020

BOOKSHELF A few brain science books that have recently caught our eye

Remembering: What 50 Years of Research with Famous Amnesia Patient H. M. Can Teach Us About Memory and How It Works by Donald G. MacKay

continued to refuse help and died at age 55. Rosenberg eventually became a psychiatrist, and Bedlam  (Random House/Penguin) chronicles the historical, political, and economic issues surrounding mental illness in America. Drawing on his own experiences, Rosenberg shows what it means to be mentally ill in the United States and how we as a society can and should move forward to help the people who are most in need. l How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut Put simply, How to Tame a Fox  (University of Chicago Press) is a story about modern-day attempts to domesticate animals, namely silver foxes. More complexly, it is also the story of evolution sped up, hidden research, and Soviet science and history coming to light. In the 1950s, an experiment was devised by geneticist Dmitry Belyaev. He theorized that by selectively breeding only the tamest and gentlest foxes, they could create domesticated ones, essentially recreating the evolution of wolves to dogs in real-time. He recruited Russian geneticist Lyudmila Trut, Ph.D., to join the experiment, and together they began their work while simultaneously attempting to hide it from agrobiologist Trofim Lysenko. (Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics and, with the help of Joseph Stalin, shut down genetics research in the Soviet Union from the 1930s to the 1950s.) Belyaev died in 1985, but the experiment he co- conducted remains ongoing with over 50 generations of foxes bred to date. This book is not only an exploration of those foxes, but about science under siege and how everything—genes, environment, evolution—shapes behavior. l

help accelerate training. The concept of neural plasticity, or how the brain is flexible and able to learn from and adapt to new experiences, and how this concept pertains to athletic training is also described. Katwala uses interviews with top athletes and scientists to not only convey the scientific facts regarding athletic training, but to do so in a way that can help anyone who is willing to learn. l Human Language: From Genes and Brains to Behavior edited by Peter Hagoort Language is essentially what makes us human. Edited by Peter Hagoort, Human Language  (MIT Press) compiles research from various fields to study one of the most complex cognitive functions that we as humans command. This book helps analyze the capacity for language from a plethora of perspectives, and contributors draw on recent developments in fields such as neuroimaging and genetic sequencing, to provide new insights and examine everything from the organization of language skills, to the evolutionary need for communication, to the genome’s role in building a language-capable brain. l Bedlam: An Intimate

Widely known only as “Patient H.M.” until recently, Henry Molaison was the victim of brain surgery gone wrong. In 1953, at age 27, he received a bilateral medial temporal lobectomy in an attempt to cure his epilepsy; and while the surgery was successful in controlling the disorder, it also destroyed his hippocampus, leading Molaison to be unable to form new memories. In an attempt to help others, Molaison devoted the rest of his life to helping scientists understand his memory, or lack thereof, and from 1957 to his death in 2008, he was the most studied amnesiac patient in history. One of the doctors who worked with him for 50 years, Donald MacKay, M.D., relays what his studies showed in his book Remembering  (Pronetheus Books), along with the importance of memory functions and ways to keep the brain sharp at any age. Most importantly, it keeps the promise made to Molaison that the work done with him would be used to help others. l The Athletic Brain by Amit Katwala There is a theory that in order to become an expert at something, one must devote 10,000 hours to that task. In  The Athletic Brain (Simon & Schuster), author Awit Katwala displays just how false that theory might be, particularly when it comes to sports. Through his book, Katwala explains how training changes the brain and, in turn, debunks the 10,000-hour rule. Other issues covered: how athletes handle pressure, ways to train the brain to release an athlete’s full potential, and how technology can

Journey Into America’s Health Crisis by Kenneth Paul Rosenberg Each year in America, one in five adults experiences mental

illness, which translates to around 40 million people. Author Kenneth Rosenberg’s older sister, Merle, was one of them. Her previously diagnosed schizophrenia—which was kept a secret by their parents—erupted into paranoid psychosis when she was 20-years-old. While Rosenberg, M.D., did all that he could to help Merle after their parents passed away, she

— Megan Messana


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