Monday, February 24, 2014

Into a silent land - book summary

Broks, P. (2003) published by Grove Press.

Paul Brok's Into a silent land is a short book with an almost fiction writing style introduces many of the concepts discussed in previous post on neurobiology and neuroscience using examples from the authors’ work as a neuropsychologists.

The book has attained various awards for its ability to use narratives of human nature, to illustrate the current understanding on how the brain works. The author is also not adverse towards calling to attention the large areas of research still required before humankind can hope to understand some of how the brain works. He also does not shy away from the fact that much of his work is difficult to explain and the underlying premise of what works or not with regards to care of his often badly damaged patients, is still an ongoing work in progress. There is still the need to do so much more study within the area of neuroscience.

The stories in each chapter enlighten the reader on some of the important discoveries of how the brain works. Each chapter provides a story or two about one of Broks’ patients to illustrate our emergent understanding of how our brain works. The stories of each patient are recorded sensitively and provide examples of various brain functions.  Brok’s reflections on how he is able (or not) to assist the patient tells us much about the ethical decisions all clinicians must face on a day to day basis. How to assist patients when there seems no cure in sight. Brok's empathy and consideration for his patients comes through, modelling considered practice for young neuropsychologists. The last chapter recounts Brok’s own experiences in dealing with his wife’s illness. An appropriate closing with the message that we all have to deal with issues related to our emotions.

There is no reference listing as such but nine pages of recommended reading. Some of which I will explore. Beginning with the 10 or so books recommended on the topic of ‘consciousness’.

I enjoyed reading this beautifully written work. The stories and difficult concepts are merged together, providing a satisfying read. Of note is the opportunity to learn and understand more about the inner workings of a neuropsychologist, how they come to think through their decisions for patient treatment and the depositional traits required to maintain professional integrity and practice in a difficult and challenging field. The structure of the book also provides an example of how to merge narrative with fact to produce a book in the non- fiction genre that appeals to the general reader. We learn more when we are able to humanise the difficult.

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