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This Is Your Brain on Joy

March 6, 2009

brain-on-joyI was in the mood for a free book a couple weeks ago, so I logged in to Thomas Nelson. The selection was uninspiring, but This Is Your Brain on Joy sounded mildly interesting so I signed up for it.

What a pleasant surprise of a book! I really enjoyed this one. The evening that I got it, I cracked it open to scan through the Forward and I was hooked. I read at least a third of it in that first sitting.

Dr. Amen (How fun is that to say?) makes the case during the Forward that psychology may be the only medical profession in which doctors don’t actually look at the part of the body they’re working with, and introduces the SPECT scan – a particular type of brain scan he’s been working with for decades. The scan shows how the different parts of the brain are working, and if any are damaged or over-active.

Dr. Henslin has worked with Dr. Amen (Say it out loud, you know you want to. Say it out loud like a Southern Baptist preacher. One time – go ahead.) for years, and what they’ve accomplished is stunning. More than one story throughout the book moved me to girly tears. Stories about people who have suffered with mild to debilitating mental handicaps for years – some for decades – and been mistreated, misdiagnosed, and misunderstood because of it, suddenly find near instant relief because someone took the time to look at their brains.

Dr. Henslin makes neurology very approachable, and even warns the experts at the beginning of the book that he’s going to use very simple language. The bulk of the text starts with a 100+ question, self-diagnosis test. It’s not something to prescribe medication by, but it’s a good start. (I did it and am glad to report my brain seems to be in pretty good shape.)

He identifies the major areas of the brain and their very basic functions. The rest of the book dedicates one chapter to each section – and very thoroughly. Each chapter explains what that part of the brain does, and what can happen if it’s damaged or over-stimulated. He shares stories of other people who have found relief from “hot” brain sections, and offers a TON of advice. He lists foods, vitamin supplements, aromatherapy options, movie recommendations, scripture, quotes/truths to recite, and mental exercises in each chapter. (All vary from chapter to chapter based on what might help someone with particular symptoms.)

These chapters make this a book I’ll keep on my shelf. Even if you’re not struggling with something, it’s a great resource. I learned, for example, that you should never yell at people with ADD. Their prefrontal cortexes (cortexi?) are not working properly, and when you yell at them, their adrenalin levels shoot up. They can actually become addicted to the sensation, which explains why the people you know that you suspect are ADD seem like they’re always trying to irritate you … because they (probably subconsciously) are.

Dr. Henslin is also a Christian. I’m not sure if he’s a Spirit-filled Christian, but his faith is ever-present in his research and writing. It’s nice to be able to appreciate science (even in laymen’s terms) without feeling like I have to check faith at the door.

Finally, Dr. Henslin does an acute job – near the beginning of the book – of addressing the stigma that gets attached to psychological medications, especially in Christian circles. Everyone wants to get healed, and everyone wants to be “normal” (although he does say there’s so such thing as a “normal” brain) without the aid of medication. But, he contends, sometimes people’s lives are on the line. Sometimes part of the brain is just physically damaged and that person needs a prescription to balance chemicals before the therapy and the spiritual healing can even begin.

I really like this book. You should look into it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2009 2:53 pm

    sounds interesting…i sure do like the cover photo.

  2. James permalink
    March 7, 2009 12:22 am

    I appreciated your thoughts on the book.

    • Lex permalink
      March 9, 2009 9:29 am

      @nAncY – Fascinating stuff for sure.

      @James – Thanks. Are you familiar with it?

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