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The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,603 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Despite everything that has been written about the brain, a very important part of this vital organ has been overlooked in most books -- until now. The Other Brain is the story of glia, which make up approximately 85 percent of the cells in the brain. Long neglected as little more than cerebral packing material ("glia" means glue), glia are sparking a revolution in brain s ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published December 29th 2009 by Simon & Schuster (first published December 29th 2008)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  1,603 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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Start your review of The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science
Oct 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you're interested in learning about how your brain is eventually going to destroy your life, look no further than this book. It's jam-packed with startling insights on how glial cells, not neurons, are potentially the true string-pullers behind the brain's fantastic functionality, and also the ways it goes wrong---for example, by the age of 80, 50% of people will develop Alzheimer's, and glia, long overlooked by neuroscientists because they don't communicate electrically like neurons, are to ...more
Dec 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Despite some repetition and meandering in the writing, this book about the "white matter" in our brains by NIH scientist R. Douglas Fields is absolutely fascinating.

Fields has a mission: to convince readers, and possibly his colleagues, that this other part of the brain has been ignored for far too long and that it may play a vital role in far more mental activity than anyone had once believed.

More than half the brain's volume is taken up by these cells, which are known by various names and perf
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is largely a review of research done on non-neuronal nervous system cells (ie, glial cells). To make it a palatable book that tells a story, he creates a narrative that basically places glial cells in the role of Jan Brady and neurons in the role of Marsha. Marsha gets all the attention because she is sexy and Jan is hard to understand because she is boring on the surface despite her intellect and greater likelihood for success in adulthood.

Despite the Brady Bunch analogy, this book is
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Douglas Fields is brilliant. Brilliant! He somehow managed to make a book on glial cells not only as intriguing as a best seller, but also as simple and easy to understand as one. He provides just enough information to clarify, but not confuse. One of my favorite things about this book was that he starts from the top- the big picture, and then works down to the details in successive chapters.

However, there is a reason I have given such a fascinating book only 4 stars. This book is going to be r
Tom Quinn
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Painfully overwritten. I was really interested in the topic and gung-ho to learn some new info about the brain's structure and mechanics, but the author's style and labored narrative really blocked me from getting into this one. And then in later chapters the fanciful narrative just dries up anyway and it becomes very dull, data-heavy, and disengaging.

3 stars - DNF. Informative but not interesting.
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-my-30s
3.5 stars. This was a very interesting and thought provoking book. Dr. Fields makes a very compelling argument for the importance of glia. (Which after reading the book, I'm convinced the word glia should be thrown out altogether because there are different types of glia that do different things that just got thrown together and called glia (neural glue) because neurologists didn't really understand the functions of glia.) I did find it a bit surprising that this book was just recently published ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
One of the best books on neuroscience I have yet read. A+

Fields takes his reader on a tour of the brain, the glial brain that is. Studies involving glia will do for the field of neuroscience what the study of epigenetics did to the field of genetics. Because of the burst of new findings relating to glial cells, we are currently witnessing a complete paradigm shift, and it's exciting! Being a lover of neuroscience, I really should have read this sooner.

Glia play a large and unexpected role in al
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely fascinating. The Other Brain focuses entirely on glial cells, which are the other general category of cells that make up the brain and nervous system (i.e. not neurons). Viewed since their discovery as little more than scaffolding and insulation for neurons, glial cells have been traditionally relegated to the sidelines of neuroscience as support cells while everyone focused on neurons. I always saw this as incredibly short-sighted; glial cells make up 85% of the central ...more
David “Skip” Everling
Neurons aren't the only important thing in the brain! That's the thrust of this book, which in large part is an explication of glial cells, their role in diverse mental and bodily processes via interaction with the neuronal network, and a case for their under-appreciation in neuroscience.

While I am persuaded by the author's case and I find the new implications intriguing, the book itself is sometimes topically technical to the point of dryness (unless you're the targeted demographic, i.e. pract
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A much needed expose and addition to the 'neuron doctrine' regarding how our brain functions. Fascinating, informative and entertaining at the same time, R Douglas Fields covers very technical neuroscience research with the flair of a poet. While I was reading, my right hemisphere could not help but conjure up and create wonderful images of how our microscopic neuron/glial and electrochemical world were interacting with each other!The author's use of metaphors certainly helped this process, thus ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Solid book, fascinating subject, not always as clear and concise as I'd like.
Callie R.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and understandable piece on a very exciting and revolutionary new branch of brain science.
Linda Robinson
Jul 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Time well invested in understanding how I'm understanding. Neuroscientists are focused on this other brain - white matter, glia, oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, myelinating, axons. This is not the neural brain: this is Brain Central. The neuron brain works by firing electricity across synapses really fast. That's all it does. Glia and its minions work more slowly to build the brain of a fetus (including supervising myelin sheathing beginning at the cerebral cortex at birth, wrapping toward the fro ...more
MJ (The Book Recluse)
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Other Brain focuses on the mostly ignored part of the brain - glial cells or white matter. Even in my course work I mostly just learned that glial cells were responsible for cleaning up and myelination. Although new evidence is showing that these underrepresented cells are responsible for so much more and we are just now discovering how much.

Fields takes a comprehensive look into the field of glial cells including his own research. The information presented is pretty cutting edge, which is
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This wasn't an easy book to find; I had to get it through an inter-library loan at my local library, but it was worth the effort it took to obtain it & read it. It's dense with information about how scientist are increasing their understanding of how our brains work by studying the glia cells, which I really didn't know much about about.

Preliminary research shows that the glial cells are related to mental illness and Alzheimer's Disease, and Fields summarizes the research in these areas.

He also
Gaurav Chhaparwal
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
For a non Neuro scientist, it is extremely difficult to know whether all the research backed statements that the book makes about the role of brain cells known as glia while neurons take most of the credit, are correct. The author makes really far reaching statements intending to overthrow the dominance of neurons as the most important part of the brain. As a result, the book often sounds like a sales pitch or funds grant request for glia.

On other aspects, the book fares fairly well like being
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is one of the most readable and most informative non-fiction books I've read in a long time, especially on a topic as complex as the human brain. Imagine you're an explorer who just discovered a new continent no one was aware of. You don't know all that's there, but you know that this is going to change everything. This book is pioneering explanation of new discoveries in how our brains work that suggests vast areas for exploration and huge potential for treating mental and physical ailment ...more
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Amazing. Even though this is not a reading book, it isn't boring. It has small "stories" that go into the main points of the book,helps you see how everything is connected, and makes you feel like someone is actually talking to you (instead of just hearing a dry lecture of facts). Some of the language is a bit complicated, but not usually. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to know about the brain, or if they are just curious. The book gives you get an in depth look a different typ ...more
Dave Armishaw
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Understandably, this book will never have wide appeal but that does not prevent it from being extremely important. Our understanding of brain and mind is changing at a rapid pace as is our ability to probe and measure. I'm interested in the rapid paths that facilitate thoughts that race between hemispheres and higher order mind functions. Douglas focuses on glial cells, the brain's white matter that has been erroneously thought to speed traffic on neuronal circuits as does insulation on electric ...more
Collins Meek
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have been helping kids overcome learning problems for more than 30 years, teaching them that we are all smarter than we think we are. Dr. Fields tells us why we are smarter than we think. I had no idea that the "white matter" (the glial-cell brain) comprises 85% of the brain.

We have been referencing only 15% all along (the neuronal-cell brain) and now we have the good news that we have more brain horsepower than we ever thought possible. Thank you, Dr. Fields!

I am grateful that you have writ
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Caution: it's best to have a solid grasp of brain anatomy before tackling this book.

At first, every time I didn't understand something, I would back up and review. If I had kept up with that, I never would have made it through the book though. I still learned some things about how the brain works, and this exciting new area of research that seems to hold a lot of hope for people with some terrible afflictions. I think I will need to come back and review the whole thing after I know a bit more ab
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fields does a great job of balance, here: he describes a potentially dry topic with smooth prose that gets you invested in the scientists' work and keeps you interested in the topic (the brain's 'support cells' - glia, which were a vastly underrepresented subject at the time of this publication... still are, really). Yet he doesn't stray into glorification or overrepresentation - all the science is dead-on and carefully described. As a scientist, you can only hope to be this succinct and effecti ...more
Oct 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
Although this book was well-written, it lacked those fascinating science facts that make popular science books so enjoyable. I put the book down after 150 pages. Although whether something is interesting is a purely subjective determination, I feel like this book crossed into objectively boring territory. I have slogged through many much more poorly written science books (and books that read like a list of research studies) when the science was compelling.
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
The audible version of this book is slightly overdramatic, which does not help to dampen some of the dramatic writing style. That aside, I love this book, and look forward to listening again. Anyone interested in brain function and cognition, should listen/read to understand that the neurocentric theories of the brain are missing the key elements that may provide the greatest insight into the role of environment on intelligence and brain health.
Jun 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book for anyone wanting to learn about the latest science concerning the brain. It is technical, yet the writing is good. For anyone interested in brain biology, it is an excellent read. There is much encouraging hope for possible cures in the next 10-20 years as the biology is becoming more and more identified.
Nancy Lockett
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This may actually be a five if I understood it. :)
Best line:
"Vital clues were overlooked o dismissed because, as in every mystery story, they were hidden in the blind spot of preconceived ideas."
Substitute "ideas" for "clues" and apply to human nature, especially bureaucratic human nature.
This book gave a new word which I must now try to insert into my conversation: "glia".
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This book presents great cutting edge science, but I just wanted the basic story and I got lost in all the names of nerves and found the author's gleeful tales of scientific discovery a little bit tiring. If I were a neuroscientist, I wouldn't read this book because I already know it. But it's just a bit much for the layman and I had to turn to other more useful reads.
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I feel like the subtitle of this book is a bit misleading. There are bits and pieces about different neurological disorders, but for the most part, this feels like a medical textbook dressed up a little bit with personal stories. I did thoroughly enjoy it and I learned a lot, but I was looking for more information on dementia and didn't really get much of it in this book.
Unforgettable reading, one of the best neuroscience books I've ever read.

Since I started studying Neuroscience, glial cells have been a thing that captivates me. I didn't know this book was about them when I started reading it. Therefore, when I discovered that, I couldn't help but love it, and though, I felt some parts were repetitive I pretty much enjoyed it the whole time.
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
This is fascinating but the book is an unwieldy jumble of science and randomly inserted personal stories. There is no structure or plan. The strange conceit of writing about the science through reenactments of experiments with characters and narratives just makes this already hard topic near impossible to follow.
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Brain Science Pod...: * BS 169 Glial Cells 2 24 Apr 25, 2020 01:56AM  

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