Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings

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Why is eating chocolate so pleasurable? Can the function of just one small group of chemicals really determine whether you are happy or sad? Does marijuana help to improve your memory in old age? Is it really best to drink coffee if you want to wake up and be alert? Why is a drug like PCP potentially lethal? Why does drinking alcohol make you drowsy? Do cigarettes help to relieve anxiety? What should you consume if you are having trouble staying in your chair and focusing enough to get your work done? Why do treatments for the common cold make us drowsy? Can eating less food preserve your brain? What are the possible side effects of pills that claim to make your smarter? Why is it so hard to stop smoking? Why did witches once believe that they could fly?

In this book, Gary Wenk demonstrates how, as a result of their effects on certain neurotransmitters concerned with behavior, everything we put into our bodies has very direct consequences for how we think, feel, and act. The chapters introduce each of the main neurotransmitters involved with behavior, discuss its role in the brain, present some background on how it is generally turned on and off, and explain ways to influence it through what we consume.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In clear, accessible prose, Wenk, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Ohio State, offers explanations for basic brain functions while exploring how different classes of food and drugs affect those functions. "By the end of the book…you will be able to predict how substances I did not discuss, and those that have not even been invented yet, might also affect your brain." He succeeds in this important and difficult task by focusing on the big picture. He begins with readable and concise explanations of brain anatomy and then moves on to explain how various neurotransmitters (such as acetylcholine, dopamine, and norepinephrine) can act to stimulate or depress brain function. Along the way, Wenk addresses a host of fascinating topics, such as possible treatments for Alzheimer's disease, why the same drug can have opposite effects in high versus low doses, and why addiction is so difficult to overcome. He also discusses why virtually all of the over-the-counter supplements enhancing brain function are useless. The book, both enjoyable and informative, will stimulate readers' brains. 30 b&w photos, 30 b&w illus. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"An absolutely fascinating read (or book) peppered with gems of surprising information on how certain foods, plants, nicotine and drugs (legal and illegal) alter the very essence of your brain cells' functioning and thus your behavior and mood. Don't deprive yourself of the pleasure of reading it."
—Jean Carper, author of Your Miracle Brain and 100 Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer's and Age-Related Memory Loss.

"Your Brain on Food provides ample and important food for thought in a delightfully written reader-friendly style. Kernels of history sprinkled throughout the book provide both interest and insight into how our appetites influence our brains and, and thus, our thoughts and actions. Gary Wenk has provided a compelling and much-needed antidote to commonly available misinformation about nutrients and brain function. Readers will be richly informed—as well as entertained."
—James L. McGaugh, Research Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine

"All of us are impacted by a bewildering array of psychoactive drugs and foods, some being agents of abuse and others being of importance in treating disease. Gary Wenk, a nationally eminent neuroscientist, provides a gripping account of the neurotransmitters that enable neurons in the brain to talk to each other and shows how drugs as well as substances derived from foods exert their psychoactive influences. Wenk has a gift for making complex concepts crystal clear and relating seemingly arcane science in a fascinating, lucid fashion—as gripping as a detective story. This is an invaluable book for anyone who is curious about the brain and its functions."
—Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., Distinguished Service Professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University

—Scientific American MIND

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195388541
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/30/2010
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 963,403
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary L. Wenk is a Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience & Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics at the Ohio State University and Medical Center.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Food, Drugs, and You
Chapter 2 Memories, Magic & Major Addiction
Chapter 3 Euphoria, Depression & Madness
Chapter 4 Your Brain's Anchor to Reality
Chapter 5 Marijuana in the Brain
Chapter 6 Simple Molecules That Turn You On and Off
Chapter 7 Sleeping vs. waking
Chapter 8 Remnants of an Ancient Past
Chapter 9 Brain Enhancement and Other Magical Beliefs
A Little Quiz
Suggested Readings

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    This book is loaded with information, the problem that the auth

    This book is loaded with information, the problem that the author has, is that he has a hard time staying with his target audience. There are countless times where he uses scientific terminology to the point where the reader just flat out gets exhausted reading the terms over and over; other scientific writes tend to state the term and then use another colloquial term to represent the scientific term for the remained of the chapter. Although his grammar is correct, his sentence structure is difficult to read through. He tends to go off on small tangents about information that may be correct, but is ultimately irrelevant to the big picture that he is trying to convey, i.e. stating a plants name in its scientific term such as the genius and species name, such as saying Solanum lycopersicum as opposed to saying tomato plant. Although the title can be proven logically as correct, it is misleading to the colloquial audience. This book is not about food in layman's terms, so if you want to buy this book because you think it will talk about french fries and burgers and how they might affect aspects of your brain, you have the wrong book. There are facts in the book that you can use to help navigate your every day life, there are things that he explains that can really affect the way you view certain everyday things; but it took a lot of patience to get through the book, I rated it at a 3 solely because of the information.

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  • Posted April 29, 2012

    A waste of money!

    The title of the book is at best deceptive. There is no discussion of food in the book. There is a brief mention of chocolate and theobromin and a short discussion of nutmeg (a food???). Although broccoli is featured on the cover it is not mentioned in the text of the book. The book has many factual and scientific errors in it and on occasion the language doesn't make sense. The author calls vitamins drugs! The sole subject of this book is the effect of various drugs in the brain. If one wants to now about the effects of food on the brain, you won't find it here. Maybe try David Kessler's book. Don't waste your money - at best it is dishonest. Hard to see how it was published as such.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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