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.
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.)