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

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  756 ratings  ·  65 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, 371 pages
Published December 29th 2009 by Simon & Schuster (first published December 29th 2008)
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Nick
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
Mark
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
...more
Anish
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
...more
molly
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
Amy
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
...more
Broodingferret
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
Julian
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
Linda Robinson
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
David 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
...more
Athena
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
Allan
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
Collins Meek
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
...more
Nancy Lockett
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".
JJ W
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.
Keith
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.
Carrie
This is a tough one to rate. The information was exactly what I desired; fascinating and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the entire book was written in bad simile. Who does that??
Allison
Great book so far! I love the info about the scientists that laid the groundwork for the current breakthroughs in neuroscience. The book portrays them as real people with passion! :)
Meowbie
An interesting book, if a little long. There were several insights about the glial brain that I didn't know, and it broadened my thinking about how the brain is constructed.
Sally
My daughter-in-law borrowed my copy some time ago, so I'll have to finish it when I get it back. It's a great book.
Taylor
I found this book intresting and informative. It thoroughly held my attantion.
vdm
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
Steven
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
...more
Adam
It's all about glia. . .
Marty Babits
Can it be the conventional paradigm--that neural pathways are a function of communication between neurons--might be reversed and the glia, the glue that holds the skeins of pathways in place might regulate them? How many times can the basic understandings of the way the brain works be revealed as other than what had been held to be true? Only thirty years ago it was held that neurons could not be generated in adult life. Now we understand that this process goes on throughout the life cycle . . . ...more
Hanaa
Brilliant!
Mallory
This book was incredible! This book describes the "other half" of the brain, glia. Per the author (and the variety of studies/scientists he cites in his book), glia have been largely ignored by neuroscientists for decades, but now discoveries about glia are providing a clearer picture about brain development, brain physiology at the cellular level, memory and learning, a myriad of brain disorders, and even glia's role in how the brain and spinal cord injury heal (and inhibit healing) after damag ...more
Ashley
Incredible book that certainly fulfills a specific niche. I would recommend this book to those interested in neuroplasticity, including those who enjoyed "The Brain that Changes Itself", because our malleable brain is only partially attributed to grey matter, which is the primary focus of that book.

I think many ardent followers of pop psychology/neuroscience will be initially attracted to this, but a more developed passion for the science is required to get through the book in its entirety. Desp
...more
Patricia
It reads like an adventure story, it leaves you in awe of the workings of the brain. It describes processes in an easy to understand gradual manner and then explains the applications. I couldn't recommend this more to both professionals and lay people alike.


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 t
...more
Bryn Donovan
You know how in Sunday school, the right answer to most questions is “Jesus”? In this book, the correct answer to most of the questions is “glia,” or glial cells, a catch-all term for the various non-neural cells in the brain.

Because their activity doesn’t involve electrical impulses, these cells have mostly been ignored in the history of neuroscience, and they were even thought of as sort of packing material for the neural cells. It turns out that these cells, including microglia, astrocytes a
...more
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