Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE SPARK OF LIFE by Frances Ashcroft

THE SPARK OF LIFE

Electricity in the Human Body

By Frances Ashcroft

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-393-07803-9
Publisher: Norton

From taking a breath to running a marathon to retrieving memories, the human body is powered by electricity—but how does it work, and how can understanding its effects assist innovations in physiology?

In every organism on earth, electrical activity is regulated by proteins called ion channels. Ashcroft (Physiology/Univ. of Oxford; Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival, 2000, etc.) argues that ion channels "are truly the 'spark of life' for they govern every aspect of our behavior.” The author's research led to innovative new treatments when she discovered that ion channel mutations can cause diabetes. Everything from inception (ion channels play a role in successful egg fertilization) to death (which is a cessation of electrical pulses between nerve cells) is affected by animal electricity, including all five senses. Thinking and dreaming, too, are powered by electric nerve impulses, suggesting intriguing connections between human emotions and memories and their underlying electrochemical processes. Ashcroft explores all of this with clarity and enthusiasm, citing ample research-based evidence to give readers an understanding of cutting-edge scientific research while also incorporating the vibrant history of the discovery of animal electricity. Informative and relatable real-life anecdotes tie many of these scientific concepts together and provide tantalizing hints of what new applications of electricity may be on the horizon. Brain-powered Internet, electric sight and even mind-reading may be possible.

A captivating read sure to pique the interest of any science fan.