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The Healing Brain


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Neurobiologist Ornstein (The Amazing Brain ) and physician Sobel review current research on the relationship of the brain (i.e., psychological, emotional, and social factors) to health. ``The primary functions of the brain,'' they say, ``is health maintenance.'' In a readable and entertaining style they discuss how the brain functions in emotional and perceptive experience, its relation to the immune system, and how positive attitudes, strong social connections, unselfishness, and healthy emotional expression affect our resistance to and recovery from disease. The authors feel obliged to defend the stance that psychological and social forces are critical determinants of disease; indeed, some findings challenge traditional views. A valuable progress report for most public libraries. Nancy B. Burrell, U.S.F. / New Coll . Lib., Sarasota, Fla.

Joining the reaction against Cartesian separation of mind and body and belief in ``magic bullets,'' Ornstein (The Amazing Brain, etc.), Stanford University professor of neurobiology, and Sobel, director of protective medicine at Kaiser-Permanente Health System, contend that the brain's primary function is not to think but to maintain and restore health to the body. The brain also activates the body's own immune system and alleviates pain using hypnosis or morphine-like analgesics. Medical intervention, they claim, is less vital to disease prevention than are nutrition, hygiene, environment, behavior and social stability. The brain alone is aware of and stimulated by all these factors, and using a combination of regulators like the hypothalamus and chemical and electrical impulses, it coordinates the body's inner functions and relates them to the external world. Above all, the authors maintain in this highly readable, informative book, social support and a consistent set of beliefs and positive attitudes help the brain adapt to or minimize negative effects of genetic traits on health. (June 1)

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