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The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine
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The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  393 ratings  ·  48 reviews
“Persuasive, impassioned... hopeful news [for those] suffering from functional bowel disease.”  — New York Times Book Review

Dr. Gershon’s groundbreaking book fills the gap between what you need to know—and what your doctor has time to tell you.

Dr. Michael Gershon has devoted his career to understanding the human bowel (the stomach, esophagus, small intestine, and colon). H
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Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 17th 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published October 4th 1998)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  393 ratings  ·  48 reviews


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Martha Love
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you are planning to be a student of medicine or neuro-psychology, then you seriously might start with this book. Gershon shares his 30 years of research of the gut and its enteric nervous system in a detailed story account, which is technical but very readable to the interested student. It may not be on your official prerequisite reading list given to you by the college you are about to attend, but trust me and read it anyway because it deserves to be read for its revolutionary content. Until ...more
Michael Connolly
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it
The Author
The author is not a gastroenterologist, but a neurobiologist, whose interest in the serotonin neurotransmitter took him down into the bowels of medicine. This book is a history of the development of the understanding of the intestinal nervous system, a history in which the author played a major role.

How Science is Actually Done
The author describes numerous experiments he and other conducted to figure out the intestinal nervous system. There is a great deal of information and the writi
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Katie
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
“Gut instinct”, “My gut tells me”, “I have butterflies in my stomach” – all the ways that we express emotions and thoughts. Our “guts” (the stomach, esophagus, small intestines, colon) are what Dr. Gershon (a neurobiologist) calls “our second brains” and chaos in one brain creates misery in the other. Consider this: 95% of the body’s serotonin is made in the bowel (serotonin being a key neurotransmitter in the regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep). Dr. Gershon also proposes that “the ugly gut ...more
Casey Harris
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book on the advice of my GI doctor, who basically "prescribed" it for me. I expected a book that would help a little bit in understanding why I'm dealing with GI issues and offer some suggestions on treating it. In fact, the cover of the paperback quotes the _NY Times Book Review_ as saying the book contains "Persuasive, impassioned...hopeful news [for those] suffering from functional bowel disease." What I actually read was something far different than I expected.

The book is ba
...more
Keith
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Keith by: Martha Char Love
Two months ago I didn't even know that there is such a thing an an enteric nervous system (ENS). Thanks to the Anatomy and Physiology class that I am taking, I learned that it exists. When Martha Char Love reviewed this book, I acquired a desire to learn more about the ENS.

This books starts out like a travelog written by a very engaging writer, who spices his writing with witty humor that is delightful to read. Even though it reads like a travelog, yet the writing is so engaging that I read on,
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Pat
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a good book. The first half was very educational and really written for the non-scientist. The second half, however, started to drag. I suppose that there is really not a lot you can do to make the descriptions of cell migrations and genetic mutations readily accessible to the common folk. But he does his best. I was uncomfortable reading about how bowels were segregated from the animals that once housed them and being reminded over and over again that scientific research of this sort i ...more
L
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you are like me, and interested in digging deeper into understanding (1) the digestive system (2) why our intestines make well over 80% of our serotonin and what it could be used for (in the digestive system AND messaging to the brain) (3) the enteric nervous system (our gut has its own brain that works independently and even overrides our "real" brain) and (4) the history behind how the new field of neurogastroenterology came about, and how the research was done and the discoveries were made ...more
Mary Ann
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
How could you help but admire a physician scientist who describes the bowel as a "primitive, slimy, snakelike thing that...slithers when it moves," yet professes to love this organ? Right from the start, you're know you’re in for a fascinating story. And Dr. Gerson doesn't disappoint. His passion, knowledge and enthusiasm bring vitality to a potentially dry subject. The second brain is the enteric nervous system - a hundred million neurons located along the sides of the single, long tube that au ...more
Nick
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Gershon is a pioneer in the understanding of the gut, the colon, and all the other parts of our bodies that most of us would rather not think about. But we should: it turns out that we have more neurons in our gut -- yes, neurons, like in our brains -- than a cat has in its brain. Our tummies are, in some weird sense, smarter than cats. Gershon explores this mystery -- if the gut is thinking, what is it thinking about? -- and many others, focusing especially on the diseases of the gut and colon. ...more
Andy
Jun 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people with digestive problems
Your gut has its own intrinsic nervous system. If you were to cut the vagus nerves (that run between the brain and the bowel), the enteric nervous system would still go on functioning from stomach to colon.

This dude knows his stuff and really breaks it all down.
Richard
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
A good, readable account of how a top-notch scientist made important discoveries about the role of the enteric nervous system.

Written before the explosion of understanding of the human microbiome, he includes excellent details of each of the parts of the gastric system and how the nerves function, right down to the level of seronotin, but much of this is obsolete now that the role of microbes is becoming known.
Caroline
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well-presented history of the author's extensive basic research into the neuro-anatomy of the human digestive system. Quite detailed and fascinating. Dr. Gershon both comes across as an expert and as an unpretentious lifelong student, a generous mentor and collaborator. I sought out the book as a result of a footnote in something else I read. It is an example of the serendipitous education I am pursuing in my retirement. ...more
Mwalkes
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This amazing scientist using storytelling technique to disclose well-kept secrets of the nervous system in the gut. This essential information will hopefully eventually seep into mainstream medicine, where it will benefit the masses suffering from gut disturbances, many of which are an unwitting resultant from pharmaceuticals.
Susan
Nov 13, 2008 added it
I confess, I ended up skimming quite a bit of the second half because it was due back at the library. Interesting, but I don't really have the science/medical background to find it enthralling. But know I know that I have an enteric nervous system and it produces a lot of serotonin. ...more
Michele
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating stuff. Very technical, but I think that's a positive attribute in a science book. ...more
Jeanie Gallegly
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Gershon is brilliant in both conducting research and writing about it. This book is vital for all health care professionals, educators, and persons interested in health.
Nadia
Fascinating! Makes so much sense.
Neerav Berry
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health
Excellent book. Wish I knew more about human physiology and bio to follow it all.
dejah_thoris
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Another mixed review. On the one hand, it's great to know that the enteric system does have its own, separate nervous system that will continue to work independently even after it's disconnected from the spine. (The former practice for relieving ulcer pain.) Also great to learn that chemicals like SSRIs can improve your digestion by making that brain less neurotic in addition to the one in your skull. I also have an explanation as to why my doctor keeps pushing on my abdomen every time I visit a ...more
Sally
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medicine, science
I really enjoyed this book, especially the first two-thirds. The first part covers the author’s early discoveries relating to serotonin in the intestine and the history of gut research. The second part is an organ by organ tour of the digestive tract. One thing I liked particularly was that he explains a process in an organ (which he does very clearly) and then if there is a medication that works by affecting this part of the system, he explains exactly how it works and what its problems/advanta ...more
Kent Winward
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a couple of impressions from this book -- first, the gut brain (for lack of a better term) is the brain that deals with all of the outside influences that flow through our little tunnels of flesh. Our head brain is for dealing with all the stuff outside the flesh tunnels we call a body. The gut brain is not particularly sentient, although it communicates to us through how it impacts the body. It is also remarkably complex and the amount our medicine knows about its complex operations is on ...more
Nick Caumanns
May 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Incredibly useful and intersting information. It is unfortuante that to get the information you have to wade through endless analogies, personal accounts, and the word "I" so frequently that the book becomes a chore to read. In additon to the very interesting scientific information I also learned that the author disliked Margaret Thatcher, liked Franklin Roosevelt, and a host of other personal tidbits that really added nothing at all. Too bad because the information is groundbreaking and vital t ...more
Emily Kirik
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I unfortunately had to skim the last 50 pages because I was a bit tired of reading multiple scientific papers, it seemed like. However, Dr. Gershon’s work is magnificent and significant. Understanding that serotonin is the enteric nervous system’s primary neurotransmitter can reveal so much about the mind-gut connection, which is still being vigorously researched. The book doesn’t take an wholistic approach with food and nutrition, instead focusing on pharmaceutical therapy, but the research is ...more
Sylvia Clare
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
i confess i had to give up but i may go back and finish another time- it is interesting but very factual and i got overstuffed with information, some of which was fascinating and some of which went high flying over my head just becasue there was soooo much of it. It is very well written and informative and i was fascinated to learn about my own pancreatitus and such conditions. I think it is nto a read for leisure so much though as a text book -Wrth it - i have no regrets reading over two thirds ...more
Ann Alton
Jan 07, 2021 rated it liked it
Subtitle misleading. The book was great, don’t get me wrong, but i thought, from the subtitle that we were further along with understanding of functional bowel diseases. But instead i know how it all started, to where it is now, and a LOT of embryology. Now, i am a science geek, so it was fine with me, but disappointing because i thought i would gather more insight to share with my patients. Alas, that’s not where we are. I just wish the subtitle hadn’t implied the level of advancement. 3.5 star ...more
Kimberly Diez
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
There is a lot of interesting information contained in this book. However, I do not recommend it for the lay person. I am not a doctor, but I have spent many years working in medical and psychiatric settings as an interpreter, and my knowledge and understanding of the human body is probably better than the average person's by virtue of that experience. Nevertheless, I had a very difficult time wrapping my brain around the content. ...more
Emanuele Gemelli
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-reader
Interesting subject, but way too technical to digest; I think the author should have restrained a bit more on the amount of technicalities addressed and remembering that the audience was not a bunch of referees
Jordan
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very informative. This is a newer science and I think it's only going to impact us more. It now makes sense why we are sicker than ever as a society.

Overdrive
...more
Amanda
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wish this was being taught in nursing and medical school now.
Joey Stempky
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Too technical to be useful at a certain point.
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Chairman of the department of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University.

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