Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rough Guide to the Brain

BBC reports: [edited]

Anatomically speaking, the brain is nothing more than a collection of interconnected nerve cells, a coordinating hub for the body's electrical system. Yet these 100 billion neurones - more than 16 times the human population of the earth - govern everything we do, from breathing to directing how we think and feel.

Despite it being one of the most important organs in our body, few of us know what it does or what it means when it goes wrong.

Dr Sarah Blakemore, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said that many of her patients, especially those with diseases like Parkinson's where the brain is affected, were keen to learn more about how the brain works. However, little has been written for the lay person, she said.

Now The Rough Guide series, famed for its realistic appraisal of holiday destinations, has published its first medical guide - "The Rough Guide to the Brain".

It charts the evolution of the human brain and how it differs from that of other organisms. And it studies the "unexplained brain", including topics such as how the power of positive thinking can be used to help pain relief.

It tells how hypnosis has been used to 'anaesthetise' patients. One, Italian Pierina Menegazzo, aged 19, had her appendix removed following hypnosis in 1961. The guide also takes a glimpse at the future, pondering whether the brain will evolve further and whether man can ever create an artificial brain.

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