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Brainology - Mosaic Science ****

A companion to Bodyology, Brainology consists of articles originally published on the Mosaic Science website and funded by medical charity Wellcome. These are well-written, professional articles: if you hit on a topic that interest you, it's very easy to be sucked in.

Because I'm not a great fan of medical journalism, I was less interested by topics such as 'the nerve cure for arthritis' and 'you can train your body to receive medicine.' However, some of the other articles really rewarded my read: for example, 'How should we deal with dark winters' and (despite the 'doctor' word) 'How doctors are reclaiming LSD', which was genuinely interesting on the history of attempts to use LSD and MDMA for medical purposes (though perhaps a little light on the deaths allegedly caused by the latter). 

For me, though, the standout article was 'What tail-chasing dogs reveal about humans', which uses studies of the compulsive behaviour of dogs to try to get insights into OCD. If I'm honest, I wasn't very interested in the human side, but the idea that dogs could have such behaviour - one dog, for example, apparently had to put seven pieces of food into recesses in a couch before eating - was fascinating.

In reviewing Bodyology, I complained about the over-heavy use of 'true life stories'. This is also the case with Brainology, though more of them here are first person, which tend to have less of the over-dramatised wording. Perhaps because of limiting the book to a single organ - even one as interesting as the brain - though, I found there were fewer stories that really grabbed me. However, the ones that did were superb.

As with Bodyology, it's a great collection to dip into for a single item as a quick read - though it's very tempting then to read just one more. And another. Makes a potentially heavy topic approachable and fascinating.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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