The Healing Brain presents an easy to read, amusing, entertaining — yet highly authoritative account of how our brain “minds” our body — actively guarding and defending our health and well-being. Robert Ornstein, a neurologist, and David Sobel, a physician, highlight the themes most important to understand this fascinating science. They explain that, contrary to many of our assumptions about the main purpose of our brain — that it evolved primarily for “higher-thinking” — in fact, the brain works tirelessly to adapt to the changing world around us. This essential reference book helps us understand our brain as the original “health maintenance organization”— giving us the understanding we need to help our brain do what it does best — guarding our health, and helping us to heal.
From the Preface:
The brain minds the body. This idea seems so simple and central to the understanding of human health, and yet it has escaped the attention of the mainstream of medical practice and psychological thought. Medicine has largely regarded the body as a mindless machine--a perspective elucidated by a brilliant twenty-four-year-old philosopher, René Descartes, more than four hundred years ago. Proposed as a temporary expedient to permit investigation of the human organism unencumbered by the dogma of the ruling Church, this separation of mind and body has dominated medical practice and thought.
Psychology has similarly been restricted by a view that the main purpose of the human brain was to produce rational thought. Never mind that the brain is the largest organ of secretion in the body, and the neuron, far from being like a chip within a computer, is a flesh-and-blood little gland, one that produces hundreds of chemicals. These chemicals do not, for the most part, serve thought or reason. They serve keeping the body out of trouble, from commonplace problems like not falling over or walking into a wall to the myriad of tasks involved in maintaining the stability and health of the organism.
It is in the stability of our social worlds, our mental and emotional lives, and our internal physiology that health exists, and it is the brain which maintains stability by its countless adjustments, commands, and secretions.
This inconceivable organ evolved as a collection of “small brains” all living together in one body. Sometimes these brains function harmoniously, and sometimes they conflict and send mixed messages to the body. Basic to the evolution of the brain is our early attachment and dependency on other people. Our social nature links us fundamentally to others throughout our lives. When these links are strained or ruptured, the health consequences are profound.