The Three-Pound Universe

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Following a lengthy introduction, this book’s first chapter reviews brain anatomy, the basics of brain chemistry, and electrical communication within the brain. Drawing on interviews with scientists and psychologists, the authors bring the reader up to date with research in this area. Succeeding chapters provide insight into the study of mental illness.

Researchers are employing powerful tools such as brain electrical activity mapping (BEAM), computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanners, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and positron emission tomography (PET) to find new directions for the treatment of schizophrenia, amnesia, epilepsy, and other mind disorders.

Also, by studying “broken” brains, scientists gain insight into how the healthy brain works. In the last section of the book, the authors consider such vexing questions as the existence of the soul and the distinction between the mind and the brain.

Hooper and Teresi’s lively style keeps the reader engaged, even when the density of information is high. Clearly intended as an overview, the book fulfills that role but, as a result, lacks the depth that would interest readers already familiar with this topic.

The authors falter in the final third of the book when they turn their attention to the paranormal; their style becomes rather flip, and anecdotal evidence is confused with data scientifically obtained--a troubling flaw, since uncritical readers may be misled.