Monday, December 11, 2006

Guide to brain health

I received a review copy of "The Dana Guide to Brain Health", Dana Press, softcover, 2006, and I guess for the freebie should make a few comments. It is a cobbling together of contributions from 104 contributors edited by Floyd E. Bloom, M. Flint Beal, and David J. Kupfer, establishment guys with lots of credentials. William Saffire (Charman of the Dana Foundation board of directors), in the introduction says "This book is for amateurs like most of us...." It is meant to be the major home health reference on the brain. Such a source sounds good in principle, but I found myself wondering how a steelworker in Flint Michigan worried about his grandmother's stroke could deal with such a flatly written and encyclopedic effort. The huge volumne is not very approachable or friendly. He or she would pick up this book wanting perhaps to know something about strokes, and have to read though a long table of contents to figure out that Part IV "Conditions of the Brain and Nervous System", section 18, parts C59 and C60 had the word stroke in their title. To be
fair, if you get as far as the third section "How to read this book" it says you should look in the index. There you find a very long list of computer generated page and cross references. I'm not sure how our steelworker would deal with all the choices presented. If he or she simply entered "stroke" in google or any other search engine more engaging information from authoritative sources would immediately appear.

On the positive side, Part IV does present a comprehensive list of the basic ways that brains can go wrong, and this alone makes such a compliation worthwhile. Perhaps the volume will prove useful to those who are not computer literate (so why include a CD that adds absolutely nothing to the book?). I guess my take is that is book is a noble idea that in practice is not going to yield the benefits that its sponsors hope for.

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