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The Second Brain

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The Second Brain by Michael Gershon is a fascinating book. I came across it in an advertisement for Science News Books in Science News Magazine. Part of the reason I read it was the blurb mentioned Irritable Bowl Syndrome and, at the risk of providing too much information, I was suffering mightily from it at the time. The book is part memoir, part textbook, part science mystery, and all good.

The structure of the book is provided by the argument (I’m sure in scientific circles they have another word for it) over whether there is an independent central nervous system (AKA “brain”) in the gut or the neurons in the gut are part of the peripheral nervous system. Consequently, you are treated to a description of the people (memoir) and evidence (textbook). The book provides a great primer of both the human nervous system and digestive system, their structures, functions, and taxonomy. It also provides a good firsthand account of the personalities and mechanics of scientific inquiry.

The book ultimately concludes that indeed, a second brain is responsible for digestion, and is responsible for the control of internal organs extending from your mouth to your anus, with other organs such as your pancreas along the way. The characteristics include the use of the same neurotransmitters as brain number one, and crosslinking of neurons.

The book explains how digestion is carried out when it works properly, and many of the ways it can go wrong. It’s a fascinating book that despite its heavy dose of science is an engrossing and engaging read.

Oh yeah, my IBS is probably due to the mental illness of my second brain. I suppose that instead of reaching for TUMS, I should reach for prozac next time it acts up.

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About Kevin Murphy

  • Karen Pearle

    Dear Kevin,

    I am in the middle of reading The Second Brain and I really appreciate your description of and thoughts about the book.

    I am a student of Chi Nei Tsang, in which internal organs are gently massaged to release withheld charges that result in various disorders and disconnections from ourselves. One such disorder is irritable bowel. (See Sept/Oct issue of Massage Magazine on Chi Nei Tsang.) If there is a practitioner near your location you may want to explore the possibilities of this type of healing. Although I don’t have IBS, I am going through emotional, physical and spiritual changes as a recipient of this work that are deeper and more life changing than any I have done. (I
    have studied and practiced bodywork, psychotherapy and energy work).

    For more info on the subject, there is a Chi Nei Tsang website.

    All the best

  • cameron

    Hi

    If you need to know and understand more about the functions of the Gut ( Second Brain) please refer to http://www.biodynamic.org The Gerda Boyesen Institute she has studied this very subject for over forty years

    Thanks

    Cameron

  • Maureen Bailey

    Kevin:
    I was browsing thru Gershom’s book the other day at Chapters and found it very interesting but thought it a bit over my head. Anyhow, tonight I looked up “the second brain” on Google and got a link which has a comment you may find interesting about the brain and seratonin. You mentioned Prozac to cure your IBS This article says the SSRIs work on IBS.