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PSYCHOCONDUCTION

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory.

A sweeping new theory that puts forward a way to rejuvenate a damaged brain without using surgical or pharmacological methods. 

Clinical psychologist Litvin (Litvin’s Code, 2011) proposes what he calls a bold “new neuropsychological discovery” about ways in which a chronically underperforming brain may be improved with carefully managed mental exercises. According to the author, the brain processes information via an internal mapping system, in which received data is directed to a “book of addresses.” When the brain malfunctions, he says, it’s largely the result of damaged complex brain cells receiving “incomplete or distorted requests,” which results in the improper distribution of information. However, he asserts that the brain has a kind of organic plasticity that allows it to respond to willfully enacted repairs. Litvin argues that simple cells in the body can be stimulated in a way that either rejuvenates or replace damaged complex cells; this stimulation can overcome what he calls “neuropsychological barriers” and result in the release of a newly “balanced amount of brain chemicals”—a vague formulation that typifies the author’s overall mode of discussion. This is achieved, he says, by activating the brain’s response to various stimuli in quick succession, including tactile, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory stimuli. Litvin calls this theory of repair “psychoconduction,” and he includes a detailed series of mental exercises that ask readers to translate simple mathematical equations into various modes of expression; for example, he shows how a visual pattern may be translated into a knocking sound, or a clamping of a hand. Litvin has discussed psychoconduction in a number of other works, but here, he furnishes his most thorough and systematic explanation of it, largely in accessible, nontechnical language. However, this volume also replicates the principal vices of the others: It’s remarkably general, and it doesn’t present any empirical, experimental evidence for its claims. Also, Litvin’s promises regarding the scope of its application are equally unsubstantiated, as well as implausible; he claims, for example, that the exercises can remedy dyslexia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, anger issues, and even help people who have hallucinations. It’s never clear how it’s all possible, and the author offers no solid proof. 

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory. 

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4669-1254-0

Page Count: 129

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2019

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THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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WHY WE SWIM

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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