Book Review: The Root of Thought

ahglia-150x150This Saturday I will be presenting a talk,  "Fascia: the Conduit of the Mind/Body Connection" at the 4th  Amy Stine Workshop on Holistic Medicine here in Pittsburgh. While the specific theme of this year's conference is on spirituality and healing,  I am very pleased they found a way to fit my passion into  their format. In the meantime, here's a review of a book for everyone interested in this idea... One of my earliest childhood memories is hearing the “fact” somewhere, I don’t remember where,that we only use 10% of our brain. To my five year old mind that just seemed wrong.

I vowed that somehow I would find a way to use more of my brain than that.

I’ve been doing that ever since and, actually, so have you.

The story behind that scientific ratio can be found in “The Root of Thought” , a book dedicated to the mysterious glia, the fascia of the brain. Written by brain scientist Andrew Koob,“The Root of Thought” takes us on a nice historical overview of brain research and tells the tale of the discovery of neurons and glia, and the staining process developed by Camillo Golgi that made these structures easier to see and study.  Neurons were thought to be more important because the cells extended longer distances (recapitulating  the familiar tropes about men being obsessed with size). In the mad rush that ensued to establish the “Neuron Doctrine” by Golgi, Santiago Ramon y Cajal and others the glia were trampled underfoot and certain assumptions were made about their importance and function and went unchallenged.

Flash forward to 60 years of neuron dogma later and suddenly, because the brain is roughly 10% neurons to 90% glia, the sweeping pronouncement is made that we only use 10% of our brains! Is this really the way science works?

Forty-five years later, in the April 2004 issue of Scientific American in an article entitled “The Other Half of the Brain” it was revealed the the glia actually do communicate to each other and to the neurons as well via calcium waves.

You’ll find intriguing speculations in this book as to what that all might mean. As well as the real story about what made Albert Einstein’s brain so special.

One caveat: while Koob writes with great humor (sometimes it works, sometimes it distracts) and keeps a brisk pace throughout it would have been better if the book had been properly footnoted. While there are references at the end of each chapter, it would have been more helpful to have the research component better integrated into the more speculative parts of the text.

Still, if you have always been intrigued by how the mind fits into the mind/body complex via the liquid crystalline nature of the connective tissue matrix – get your hands on “The Root of Thought”.

An interview with author Andre Koob can be found here.