The best books on the brain and mind

David J. Nutt Author Of Nutt Uncut
By David J. Nutt

The Books I Picked & Why

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

By William Styron

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Why this book?

A true personal account of depression by a Nobel prize winning author of remarkable books such as Sophie’s Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner. In this autobiography, Styron digs deep into the darkness of this illness and how it temporarily derailed his writing ability. So as a description of the negative thought content and the destructive impact of depression is second to none. But worse it reveals the stigma that pervades public opinions on depression from those who haven’t suffered from it or who believe that their occasional dips in mood are the real thing. This culminated in vile and shameful abuse from other literary figures when he admitted to accepting medical treatment for his illness.


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Awakenings

By Oliver Sacks

Awakenings

Why this book?

The remarkable story of the discovery of the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in causing the sleeping sickness that occurred in some people after they had been infected in the 1918 Great Influenza epidemic. An exciting tale of a young neurologist joining the scientific team working on the development of L-DOPA as a therapy for this disorder and how it woke them up from decades of near-coma. The idea of using L-DOPA came from the scientific discovery that revealed dopamine was deficient in the brains of people with this sickness so giving a precursor to it might replace what the brain itself couldn’t make enough of. This discovery was the first to prove the role of a brain chemical in causing a neurological disorder, and the first to show replacing it was a scientific remedy. This concept of neurotransmitter impairments has since been replicated in many brain disorders but none has captured the public imagination with the power and excitement of Awakenings.


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The Doors of Perception

By Aldous Huxley

The Doors of Perception

Why this book?

The first popular book on the impact of psychedelic drugs to open the human mind. Huxley was a famous novelist from the top scientific family in the UK. In his most famous earlier fiction book, Brave New World, Huxley focused on the use of the drug Soma to control the behaviour of an underclass of humans. This book shows the opposite - how a psychedelic drug [in this case mescaline] transformed his understanding of himself and the mind.  Beautifully written and hugely influential. Moreover, his theory, derived from his mescaline experience, of how the brain focuses the mind has now been proven correct by modern neuroscience, proving it to be a truly remarkable insight


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We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's

By D. F. Swaab, Jane Hedley-Prole

We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's

Why this book?

A book written after decades of research by a leading neuroscientist to share his love of the brain with the general public. An ideal starter book for those of you who want to get a sense of all the different parts of the complex organ that comprise the human brain. In a series of chapters on the many different parts, regions structures, and brain processes this book provides a succinct yet comprehensive overview of the brain. It explains what the different parts do to make your brain work and how they work together they make us do what we do and makes sense of what we are.


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The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us

By Veronica O'Keane

The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us

Why this book?

Veronica is a professor of psychiatry with a special interest in psychosis such as schizophrenia and especially those that are seen in women after childbirth. These states of altered consciousness and the memories they produce give us insights into the nature of mental illness and the making of memories. The book develops as a series of case studies that are gently described in relation to the different brain regions that are involved in the experiences with a simple-to-understand diagram. Bringing together her clinical insights with beautiful perspectives from prose and poetry as well as from philosophers especially Henri Bergson, she makes a compelling case for memories being the core of what we as humans are.


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