The Vital Links Between Brain Behavior, Immunity and Disease
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For the nonscientist, an exceptionally readable—that is, both entertaining and enlightening—presentation of what is now known about how psychological and emotional states influence physical health and are in turn affected by it. A professor of behavioral biology in England, Martin deftly steers a clear path between what he calls the “Cavaliers of mind-body interactions,” who uncritically accept the notion that the mind is the source of most bodily ills, and the “Roundhead sceptics,” who dismiss the mind-body connection as pseudoscience, labeling that may have more resonance for his countrymen than for American readers. He presents evidence to show that what goes on in people’s minds really does affect their chances of becoming ill or dying, and he examines just how mind and body interact. The mind, he explains, can influence health indirectly by making us believe we are ill and by altering the way we behave, and more directly, by influencing our immune system’s defenses. He also relates what research is beginning to uncover about what the immune system can do to the mind. Specifically, Martin looks at the mind-body connection in two major killers, heart disease and cancer, examining the roles played by psychological stress, personality type, and social relationships. He dismisses the motion that cancer can be cured by positive thinking or by guided mental imagery, calling these techniques “latter-day miracle cures” promoted by “New Age gurus.” To illustrate his points, Martin cleverly draws on fictional characters, from Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide and Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman to Basil Fawlty of television’s Fawlty Towers. In his closing chapter, Martin describes how evolutionary medicine, which applies Darwinian theory to the problems of medicine, asking “How did this develop?”instead of “How does this work?”, offers a new perspective on the complex connections between mind, body, and disease. A clear-headed survey of a muddy field.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18664-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998


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