In this illuminating book, Palfreman reminds patients that exercise and a positive attitude help, and he urges them to...

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BRAIN STORMS

THE RACE TO UNLOCK THE MYSTERIES OF PARKINSON'S DISEASE

Prospects for better treatments for Parkinson’s disease are the hope that lies at the end of this well-researched history and overview of the current state of research.

Palfreman (Emeritus, Broadcast Journalism/Univ. of Oregon; co-author: The Case of the Frozen Addicts, 1996, etc.) brings his skill as a science writer and a deep personal commitment to an initially dark narrative. A generation ago, L-dopa was the breakthrough drug that would supply dopamine, the neurotransmitter no longer available from diseased brain cells, to neurons in movement control centers. Thus it would stop the tremors, falls, and other signs of Parkinson’s—except when it didn’t. L-dopa is notoriously difficult to deliver to the brain, and when it arrives, its release fluctuates, producing on-again, off-again effects. So the race was on to protect, revive, or transplant new cells to replace the dying ones. None of these approaches really worked, writes the author, probably because by the time movement symptoms appear, most of the dopamine cells are gone. In that sense, the tremors are only the tip of the iceberg. Among Parkinson’s “prodromal” symptoms are constipation, loss of the sense of smell, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, Parkinson’s comes in many varieties, with different ages of onset and different rates of progression. Fortunately, there are promising developments on the horizon—e.g., the chance discovery that a particular phage can invade and devour the misfolded proteins in brain cells, restoring function. A small company has now developed a phage-derived protein that forms the key to opening the cells, and they are planning human trials. Other developments include new forms of L-dopa to ensure stable amounts and sustained delivery and possible exploitation of the placebo effect, which has been shown to stimulate dopamine release from other brain systems.

In this illuminating book, Palfreman reminds patients that exercise and a positive attitude help, and he urges them to participate in clinical trials and take to task drug companies reluctant to initiate huge trials for what they dismiss as a non–life-threatening disease. Just ask Michael J. Fox.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-11617-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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