THE CHEMISTRY OF CONSCIOUS STATES

HOW THE BRAIN CHANGES ITS MIND

A prominent neurophysiologist explains his theories about the brain's chemistry and how it affects our conscious (and unconscious) activities. Hobson (Psychiatry/Harvard) espouses a kind of yin-yang view of the brain in which waking states are dominated by ``amines'' (neurotransmitters like norepinephrine that are associated with attention and arousal) and sleeping and vegetative states by acetylcholine. In this hydrodynamic theory amines are depleted as the day wears on and the cholinergic levels rise, precipitating sleep and dreaming—a time when acetylcholine is at its peak. During sleep the system is building up its supply of amines, eventually waking us up. Not altogether a surprising theory, considering that Hobson's first book, The Dreaming Brain and Sleep (not reviewed), reflected similarly his lifelong research into sleep, collection of dream journals, and experiments with lucid (i.e., self-conscious) dreaming. While the notion that we are ruled by our neurochemistry will hardly shock enlightened readers, the tendency in approaches like Hobson's is to overinterpret: Thus the schizophrenic's hallucinations, the fits of expletive-slinging common in Tourette's patients, and the suggestibility of hypnotizable people are all given as examples of involuntary loss of control occurring in waking states (whereas dream sleep creates controls that prevent violent acting out). Curiously, with all the explanatory weight Hobson puts on the importance of sleep and dreaming, he is the first to admit that no one can explain the necessity of dreams; he even suggests that newer drugs that promote production of amines may obviate the need for dreaming. There is obviously more to brain-mind states, more to the bag of neurochemicals and byways of neural circuitry, than Hobson can account for. All the same, his case studies, autobiographical anecdotes, and guidance on how to deal with sleep problems without drugs will intrigue many readers and possibly provide relief to others.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-36754-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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