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A thrilling story of scientific detective work and medical potential that illuminates the newly understood role of microglia--an elusive type of brain cell that is vitally relevant to our everyday lives. "The rarest of books: a combination of page-turning discovery and remarkably readable science journalism."--Mark Hyman, MD, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Food: Wh A thrilling story of scientific detective work and medical potential that illuminates the newly understood role of microglia--an elusive type of brain cell that is vitally relevant to our everyday lives. "The rarest of books: a combination of page-turning discovery and remarkably readable science journalism."--Mark Hyman, MD, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? Until recently, microglia were thought to be merely the brain's housekeepers, helpfully removing damaged cells. But a recent groundbreaking discovery revealed them to be capable of terrifying Jekyll and Hyde behavior. When triggered--and anything that stirs up the immune system in the body can activate microglia--they can morph into destroyers, impacting a wide range of issues from memory problems and anxiety to depression and Alzheimer's. Under the right circumstances, however, microglia can be coaxed back into being angelic healers, able to repair the brain in ways that help alleviate symptoms and hold the promise to one day prevent disease. A fascinating behind-the-scenes account of this cutting-edge science, The Angel and the Assassin also explores the medical implications of these game-changing discoveries. Award-winning journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa began her investigation with a personal interest--when diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder years ago, she was convinced there was something physical going on in her brain as well as her body, though no doctor she consulted could explain how the two could be interacting in this way. With the compassion born of her own experience, she follows practitioners and patients on the front lines of treatments that help to "reboot" microglia--from neurofeedback and intermittent fasting to transcranial magnetic stimulation and gamma light flicker therapy. She witnesses patients finding significant relief from pressing symptoms--and at least one stunning recovery--offering new hope to the tens of millions who suffer from mental, cognitive, and physical health issues. Proving once and for all the biological basis for the mind-body connection, the discovery of the true role of microglia stands to rewrite psychiatric and medical texts as we know them. Hailed as "riveting," "stunning," and "visionary," The Angel and the Assassin offers us a radically reconceived picture of human health and promises to change everything we thought we knew about how to heal ourselves.


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A thrilling story of scientific detective work and medical potential that illuminates the newly understood role of microglia--an elusive type of brain cell that is vitally relevant to our everyday lives. "The rarest of books: a combination of page-turning discovery and remarkably readable science journalism."--Mark Hyman, MD, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Food: Wh A thrilling story of scientific detective work and medical potential that illuminates the newly understood role of microglia--an elusive type of brain cell that is vitally relevant to our everyday lives. "The rarest of books: a combination of page-turning discovery and remarkably readable science journalism."--Mark Hyman, MD, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? Until recently, microglia were thought to be merely the brain's housekeepers, helpfully removing damaged cells. But a recent groundbreaking discovery revealed them to be capable of terrifying Jekyll and Hyde behavior. When triggered--and anything that stirs up the immune system in the body can activate microglia--they can morph into destroyers, impacting a wide range of issues from memory problems and anxiety to depression and Alzheimer's. Under the right circumstances, however, microglia can be coaxed back into being angelic healers, able to repair the brain in ways that help alleviate symptoms and hold the promise to one day prevent disease. A fascinating behind-the-scenes account of this cutting-edge science, The Angel and the Assassin also explores the medical implications of these game-changing discoveries. Award-winning journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa began her investigation with a personal interest--when diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder years ago, she was convinced there was something physical going on in her brain as well as her body, though no doctor she consulted could explain how the two could be interacting in this way. With the compassion born of her own experience, she follows practitioners and patients on the front lines of treatments that help to "reboot" microglia--from neurofeedback and intermittent fasting to transcranial magnetic stimulation and gamma light flicker therapy. She witnesses patients finding significant relief from pressing symptoms--and at least one stunning recovery--offering new hope to the tens of millions who suffer from mental, cognitive, and physical health issues. Proving once and for all the biological basis for the mind-body connection, the discovery of the true role of microglia stands to rewrite psychiatric and medical texts as we know them. Hailed as "riveting," "stunning," and "visionary," The Angel and the Assassin offers us a radically reconceived picture of human health and promises to change everything we thought we knew about how to heal ourselves.

30 review for The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine

  1. 4 out of 5

    Aisling

    A truly terrible title for a terrific book. The "angel and the assassin" bit sounds like a horrible bad romance. The rest of the title is great and in fact exactly covers the topic of the book--a tiny brain cell that changed the course of medicine; the microglia. I really enjoy books like this that humanize the people behind medical discoveries and the pioneers in treatment and show the current and future areas of research. (Another great one is Switched On by John Elder Robison although that i A truly terrible title for a terrific book. The "angel and the assassin" bit sounds like a horrible bad romance. The rest of the title is great and in fact exactly covers the topic of the book--a tiny brain cell that changed the course of medicine; the microglia. I really enjoy books like this that humanize the people behind medical discoveries and the pioneers in treatment and show the current and future areas of research. (Another great one is Switched On by John Elder Robison although that is more memoir and less med research). In this book Donna Jackson Nakazawa takes the reader on a fascinating discovery of the microglia--a tiny brain cell that was misunderstood and then as research progressed (and is still progressing) became so important in the world of treating mental and brain diseases. This book humanizes the scientists who made early discoveries and follows a few patients with various issues (depression, anxiety) and shows how new and promising (and NOT pharmaceutical) treatments are revolutionizing their lives. This was really a fascinating read, very nicely manageable for the non scientific reader and (dare I say?) a mind blowing look into how incredibly complex the brain synapses and immune responses are. All in all absolutely a 5 star non fiction read but ugh that title.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Donna Jackson Nakazawa is a favorite nonfiction author of mine. Her book, The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire in a World Out of Balance--and the Cutting-Edge Science that Promises Hope was one of the first books I read after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 10 years ago. And I’ve devoured every one she’s written since. The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine is her latest, and publishes in January 2020. It introduces a component of our Donna Jackson Nakazawa is a favorite nonfiction author of mine. Her book, The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire in a World Out of Balance--and the Cutting-Edge Science that Promises Hope was one of the first books I read after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 10 years ago. And I’ve devoured every one she’s written since. The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine is her latest, and publishes in January 2020. It introduces a component of our brains called microglia to the general public. Microglia are cells in the body that don’t get much attention even though scientists are aware of them. But, as Nakazawa explains, some ground-breaking scientists are now intensely researching microglia. And what they’re learning is stunning. In its simplest form, studying microglia proves that brain, mind, and body are intimately tied together. This seems obvious, but medicine and science don’t treat them as connected. Instead, we focus on the barriers between them. And we assume that the immune system doesn’t exist in the brain, just because we don’t see the same elements as we see in the body. But Nakazawa explains that this is all old science. Now we know that physical trauma affects the brain, and thus, affects everything about mood, cognition, and brain function. This trauma could be as common as a concussion, all the way up to complicated and traumatic brain injuries. In addition, diseases that affect the body’s immune system are also likely to affect the brain—a relatively new concept called neuroimmune function. This also changes the way we’ll treat diseases like depression, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer’s in the future. Ultimately, the fields of neuroscience, genetics, psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and immunology are all more closely connected than ever. My conclusions First, I’m not explaining this as eloquently as Nakazawa does. The science is complex and multi-layered. And yet, she walks readers through the information step by step. The way she integrates stories of real-life patients makes the clinical and research details come to life. Having examples makes everything easier to absorb, and along the way you cheer for the people searching for solutions. Which leads me to my next point. I particularly like that Nakazawa doesn’t stop at discussing the science. She helps readers understand if and how they can bring these cutting edge concepts into their own lives. Part way through, I was definitely searching online to find specific neuroimmune-related services in my area. It’s not common to find a book with innovative information that is also so readable. I never felt talked down to, despite my lack of scientific education. Nakazawa is a patient who writes for patients, not researchers. She’s the advocate you’ve always wanted, and by writing books, she helps many more patients than she could do individually. Read this if you like learning more about how your body, especially your brain, works. You’ll see how the science of microglia is already changing what we know about our brains. Definitely recommended for people with neurological, autoimmune, and mental health conditions of all kinds (and the people in their lives). Pair with either of Norman Doidge’s books about neuroplasticity. If you’d like a shorter option, pair with The Beautiful Brain by Hana Walker-Brown (an Audible Original). This one’s about concussions. I’d also pair this with The Ghost in My Brain or Brain on Fire, which are memoirs about neurological journeys. Acknowledgements Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine Books, and the author for the opportunity to read the digital ARC in exchange for this honest review. Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Terrible Title. Instead of a book about new developments in the field of neuroscience, one would think it was a pulp fiction novel based on its very poorly chosen title. For years scientists believed that the brain was in someway isolated from the rest of the body. However, new studies have shown that is not the case. Glia cells are the star of this book. The author follows three different patients who are being treated with different therapies based on their symptoms. It turns out that the glia Terrible Title. Instead of a book about new developments in the field of neuroscience, one would think it was a pulp fiction novel based on its very poorly chosen title. For years scientists believed that the brain was in someway isolated from the rest of the body. However, new studies have shown that is not the case. Glia cells are the star of this book. The author follows three different patients who are being treated with different therapies based on their symptoms. It turns out that the glia cells rambling around in our brains are the shiftless no action cells scientists always believe them to be. It turns out that these cells play a major role in how our immune systems works both in our favor and to our detriment. For example, glia cells can play a role in the destruction of brain synapses. It’s a good thing for glia cells to remove the old, dying connections, but they can go overboard and begin attacking useful needed connection. And this activity may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists also now believe that glia cells may play a role in auto immune diseases like lupus. But glia cells can also be used through different therapies to treat depression, anxiety, and reduce inflammation in the brain which may cause diseases like schizophrenia. Good reading.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joy Clark

    Disclaimer: I am HUGELY skeptical of science journalism (as everyone should be). Journalists often sensationalize scientific findings in ways that are (sometimes extremely) misleading. So, yes, my critical hat is on as I read this, so a few initial thoughts: 1) The author does, at times, acknowledge that "correlation does not equal causation". This is where many scientific journalists trip up. At other times, however, her language edges extremely close to inferring that the jury is no longer out Disclaimer: I am HUGELY skeptical of science journalism (as everyone should be). Journalists often sensationalize scientific findings in ways that are (sometimes extremely) misleading. So, yes, my critical hat is on as I read this, so a few initial thoughts: 1) The author does, at times, acknowledge that "correlation does not equal causation". This is where many scientific journalists trip up. At other times, however, her language edges extremely close to inferring that the jury is no longer out and all causal ties have been validated and locked up. It's a fine line. 2) The author appears to equate psychoanalysis with psychotherapy. They are NOT synonymous. Psychoanalysis is a type of talk therapy, the school of therapy developed by Freud. Which, by the way, is not evidence-based and has largely fallen out of favor with scientific psychology, for good reason. So, yeah, please don't equate the two. 3) The author uses anecdotal evidence from one psychoanalyst (see above) to make points. Anecdotal evidence is not science!! EDIT: It's not just that one case. LOTS of anecdotal evidence present, and in one case a "treatment" discussed turns out to be patented and sold by the treating provider (that's not fishy at all...). 4) The author pretty much glosses over the use of psychotherapy to treat psychiatric disorders. She mentions the shortcomings of psychoactive medications but fails to note that in the majority of cases, psychotherapy has been found to be more effective in the long-term. Yes, it's not perfect, but let's not pretend that it doesn't exist. 5) The "hey kids, don't try this at home" disclaimer is in the footnotes, which we know not everyone reads. Given the experimental nature of many of these treatments, particularly the diet stuff, a more forceful disclaimer in the text would have been more effective. Now that I have been overly critical, I will say that the subject matter is fascinating, and the author's attempt to bring in personal accounts, to humanize the very heavy neuroscientific jargon, is admirable. Not to mention the fact that inflammation is the "in" science, particularly in the areas of dementia and other neurological disorders. I just hope that the public will see this for what it is - journalism - not scientific literature.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ashlee Bree

    My first thoughts: Illuminating. Startling. Objectively informative. Emotionally and psychologically resonant. Broad conceptually yet personal in context. Explanatory on the whole without crossing the line into yawn-inducing drudgery that slaps research statistic after research statistic, or fact after scientific fact, to the forehead in the hopes that details about microglia will be absorbed into the brain via osmosis then fired from synapse to synapse until it embeds itself there: read but not My first thoughts: Illuminating. Startling. Objectively informative. Emotionally and psychologically resonant. Broad conceptually yet personal in context. Explanatory on the whole without crossing the line into yawn-inducing drudgery that slaps research statistic after research statistic, or fact after scientific fact, to the forehead in the hopes that details about microglia will be absorbed into the brain via osmosis then fired from synapse to synapse until it embeds itself there: read but not comprehended, learned but not in a way that warrants more questions or reflection after the last sentence has ended. Also: Scientifically significant. Balanced between person-focused narration and fact reporting. New knowledge, tailored medical treatments. Surprising connections that send your mind into empathetic overdrive, churning those thinking wheels to exertion so as to induce elbow-under-the-chin musings. To speak more plainly, this book may be many things but dull and impenetrably dense isn't one of them. It offers a penetrating look into present knowledge and future therapies for inflammatory disorders. Doing so in approachable language, with person-by-person examples, Nakazawa catalogues how microglia, as the white blood cells of the brain, can act as destructive "assassins" that invade healthy cells and cause physical/psychiatric disease or as healing "angels" that already are (or may be) manipulated by scientific intervention someday to reverse damage in the body. Seeing as how I suffer from multiple autoimmune issues myself, I found this to be instructive as well as intriguing. Relatable, too, given the mental/physical struggles that accompany anything chronic or malignant. This foray into microglia's role in the body gives the mind/body connection of disease concrete validity. Something definitive, observable, and testable in laboratories around the world. Nakazawa lays out research and interviews with experts who discuss how microglial cells are the main culprits of inflammation in the brain because they "were/are mistakenly eating away synapses that shouldn't be pruned away," thereby contributing to neuropsychiatric or neurodevelopmental disorders like depression, Alzheimers, glaucoma, lupus etc. The author also personalizes the science by weaving in her own trials with Guillain-Barré syndrome, by chronicling treatments that Katie Harrison, Heather Somers, and Lila Chen all try to alleviate their symptoms. Doing so allows readers to bounce back and forth between the faceless objectivity of science and the human subjectivity of what it means to suffer from a persistent illness. I am so glad I picked this up! It demolished my meager expectations. It was amazing to ponder the idea that science has uncovered a specific underlier of inflammatory disease. A cellular bridge between mind and body--finally. Thanks so much to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the ARC!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This excellent piece of medical journalism explores new research on the brain and the immune system. The writing is fresh and interesting, and the author is a born storyteller. She takes you into the lives of several patients suffering neurological malfunctions, following them through their debilitating symptoms, initial consultations, treatment, and their lives after ground-breaking medical procedures. This book is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand the underlying causes for psy This excellent piece of medical journalism explores new research on the brain and the immune system. The writing is fresh and interesting, and the author is a born storyteller. She takes you into the lives of several patients suffering neurological malfunctions, following them through their debilitating symptoms, initial consultations, treatment, and their lives after ground-breaking medical procedures. This book is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand the underlying causes for psychological and neurological disorders and diseases. Researchers on the cutting edge of brain research are profiled in depth, along with details of their findings and procedures. The book is understandable by intelligent lay people willing to dig deep on a fairly technical topic. Excellent book, highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I loved this book! I'll admit that I'm partial as someone who studies the cells, microglia, that she writes about in this book. I also have a fondness for having read the science she describes when it emerged and met many of the scientists she interviews. Generally, though, she's a gifted "popular science" writer and humanizes the translation of bench science to the clinic in a tender, careful way. If you've been struggling with mental illness and treatments are not working, it might be an inspi I loved this book! I'll admit that I'm partial as someone who studies the cells, microglia, that she writes about in this book. I also have a fondness for having read the science she describes when it emerged and met many of the scientists she interviews. Generally, though, she's a gifted "popular science" writer and humanizes the translation of bench science to the clinic in a tender, careful way. If you've been struggling with mental illness and treatments are not working, it might be an inspirational book for asking for new treatments and working toward a liveable life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    MJ

    I had been somewhat under the impression, previous to reading this, that the blood-brain barrier for the most part prevented the body’s immune system from affecting the brain. Turns out all of neuroscience was wrong about this for decades! It’s cool that we know otherwise now! In my strange combination of science-illiteracy and pop-science-literacy (and extensive reading about mental health and cognitive problems), I had to stop and remind myself that a lot of people probably needed the metaphor I had been somewhat under the impression, previous to reading this, that the blood-brain barrier for the most part prevented the body’s immune system from affecting the brain. Turns out all of neuroscience was wrong about this for decades! It’s cool that we know otherwise now! In my strange combination of science-illiteracy and pop-science-literacy (and extensive reading about mental health and cognitive problems), I had to stop and remind myself that a lot of people probably needed the metaphors more than I did, and that most people probably had not heard of neurofeedback or transcranial magnetic stimulation. The human interest stories of the three women dealing with serious depression and autoimmune issues were very moving. Obviously I wish none of these specific people ill but it was an interesting narrative choice to have each of them get and stay better at the first treatment profiled (TMS, neurofeedback, and a fasting-mimicking diet.) I guess maybe that’s just how it “really” happened but it feels a little overly utopian. (Did she talk to no one whose depression was still treatment-resistant?) To be fair, the book is careful not to actually suggest that this immunological understanding of microglia and the potential treatment options won’t necessarily be meant to supplant SSRIs, exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc. I’m a sucker for evolutionary biology sometimes but I thought the theory of microglial inflammation as a social adaption was interesting: depression and anhedonia after an illness as a way to reduce social interaction and therefore dedicate more of the body’s resources to healing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I'm not one to use "scientific" and "exciting" in one sentence, but this book has brought me to just that. DJN takes some pretty heavy-duty and cutting-edge science and makes it accessible to readers that is exciting, but also a bi alarming and promising. The combination of these three and the beautifully written narratives make this informative and exciting.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Caveat - I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway. I am a psychology professor at a community college, so I have particular interest in mind and brain and behavior. BioPsych is not my area of specialty. When I took a course in "Biology and Behavior" 4 decades ago (almost) there were many bits of dogma that have since been overturned, such as "we are born with all the neurons we will ever have." I don't recall any mention of microglial cells, and the glia were just called "he Caveat - I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway. I am a psychology professor at a community college, so I have particular interest in mind and brain and behavior. BioPsych is not my area of specialty. When I took a course in "Biology and Behavior" 4 decades ago (almost) there were many bits of dogma that have since been overturned, such as "we are born with all the neurons we will ever have." I don't recall any mention of microglial cells, and the glia were just called "helper cells" that basically glued the neurons in place. I have done reading in neuroscience, mostly by actual neuroscientists rather than journalists or science writers. Sometimes, these people write brilliantly, sometimes not. Either way, we continue to see how what we DON'T know about the brain is vast compared to what we DO know. There is also a lot of pop-neuropsych B.S. and overstated bits that are essentially true but blown out of proportion. When reading "The Angel and the Assassin" I sometimes had the sense that the topic of the microglia was being presented as though we had found "the thing" that all else rests upon. It is hard to avoid this when fairly new scientific findings are challenging or greatly extending what was known before. There's almost a religious zeal. However, the author does a good job of grounding what she is writing with reference to scientists and scientific articles. The 30 pages of notes support the author's writing. In the "About the Author" bit at the end, we see that she has won a number of awards for writings regarding immune system science. I am curious to see how the book is reviewed by scholars in the academic journals. The writing is engaging, and she does a good job of making the science accessible to people without an education in biology, neurology, and science. That's a real strength - I wish more textbooks succeeded at that! One thing in the writing that irritated me was the frequent start of a sentence or even a paragraph with "Which..." I see this more commonly in my students, but it's continuation of the previous thought, not the start of a new one. Perhaps that's just the way the written language is evolving, and I'm showing (and feeling) my age! Overall, as you can see by the 5 out of 5 Stars, I think this is a good book that is worth the time to read. I did take some time to read it, because I wanted to digest it, not rush through. The chapters alternate between people dealing with the types of disorders (anxiety and autoimmune disease) that we are seeing microglial treatments having some effect upon, and this gives readers a human connection as well as having the "testimonial" element that can either bring the science to life or create the religious zeal feeling. I think it is a strength, however. So, if you are interested in the brain, in new frontiers in science and treatment of difficult disorders, in psychology, then this is a worthwhile book to read. Enjoy!

  11. 4 out of 5

    P D

    In 2008, I asked my immunology professor if there was a relationship between the immune cells and the brain. He told me, flat-out, no. So it's honestly incredible how far the science has advanced since then. This is very, very much a book aimed at patients, families of patients, and those who would simply like to understand more about all the potentially microglia-connected diseases out there, but who do not come from a science background. The notes give you a sense of just how much research went In 2008, I asked my immunology professor if there was a relationship between the immune cells and the brain. He told me, flat-out, no. So it's honestly incredible how far the science has advanced since then. This is very, very much a book aimed at patients, families of patients, and those who would simply like to understand more about all the potentially microglia-connected diseases out there, but who do not come from a science background. The notes give you a sense of just how much research went into all this, but the presentation of the book is much more focused on people. Even the segments on research are told more as simple quotes from the researchers, as opposed to nice long paragraphs that wouldn't be out of place in a particularly accessible textbook. Anyway, that made it a hard read for me. Bio majors, you may want to reference the notes here and borrow someone's university access if you don't have one yourself. Anyway anyway, what I did appreciate - and what is definitely relevant to me - is the neglect, and more importantly the dismissal, of diseases that tend to be more prevalent in female populations. (Yes, she mentions males. Don't twist your panties, MRAs...although I realize that's a lost cause.) The personal stories focus on women who are in turns dismissed by their families as exaggerating/etc, who are expected to provide care while working and dealing with their own severe illnesses...so on and so forth. Not only that, but decades of medical science have done jack shit for them. (Never forget that, even through recent times, there were more papers written on male pattern baldness than endometriosis.) Even though mental health disorders cost billions of dollars a year - medical expenses, inability to be active, etc - a significant portion of patients with these conditions haven't been successfully treated by modern medicine. (I believe it's 15% of depressed patients who have 'treatment resistant depression' - which is to say that throwing neurotransmitters at the problem doesn't work for them.) However, with the introduction of immune pathways, new treatment options are opening up. Nakazawa is careful to mention that these don't work for everyone, although the case studies in her book are successes. People with autism may not appreciate how she talks about it as a disorder - I'm not sure if being clear to differentiate between the associated disease state of neuroinflammation, versus behavioral differences that are simply a different but no better/worse mode, would help there - but I rather think that is supposed to be implied. This isn't a bad primer to the current state of microglia research, and how it's transformed our understanding of immunity in the brain, although it's definitely aimed at the lay audience. (Which is probably a selling point!)

  12. 4 out of 5

    BOOKLOVER10

    If you have never heard of microglia (they function as the white blood cells in your brain), you will learn a great deal from Donna Jackson Nakazawa's thought-provoking work of non-fiction, "The Angel and the Assassin." Nakazawa is an accomplished science writer who tackles a complicated subject and makes it comprehensible to the average reader. The book's premise is that the human brain and body are inextricably linked. Environmental chemicals, traumatic brain injuries, chronic stress, infectio If you have never heard of microglia (they function as the white blood cells in your brain), you will learn a great deal from Donna Jackson Nakazawa's thought-provoking work of non-fiction, "The Angel and the Assassin." Nakazawa is an accomplished science writer who tackles a complicated subject and makes it comprehensible to the average reader. The book's premise is that the human brain and body are inextricably linked. Environmental chemicals, traumatic brain injuries, chronic stress, infections, and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, Crohn's, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis can trigger deep depression, anxiety, psychosis, and even early-onset Alzheimer's. When someone's immune system goes into overdrive to reduce inflammation, small cells known as microglia may protect and repair the brain's neurons and synapses or, conversely--when things go awry--severely damage them. The consequences can be devastating. Nakazawa's interest in the subject was piqued when, after coming down with Guillain-Barré syndrome, she spent "all told, a year in bed or in a wheelchair." Her doctor at Johns Hopkins explained that her body's immune system was "behaving erratically, like an army gone rogue." Although she eventually recovered, the author was eager to understand the cognitive changes that she experienced during her illness. Not only did she suffer from a "black-dog depression," but her memory became erratic, as well. She believed that this was more than just a side effect of her physical challenges. To illustrate the toll taken by harmful microglia (these cells can be "angels" when they clear toxins and other rubbish from our brains), Nakazawa recounts the struggles of three patients--their names and histories are disguised to protect their privacy--two of whom had autoimmune disorders coupled with distressing psychological symptoms. In addition, the author interviews researchers who explain what can happen when the immune system lays siege, not only to our bodies, but also to our memories, moods, and ability to carry out routine tasks. Fortunately, there are therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and neurofeedback, that may offer substantial relief. In "The Angel and the Assassin," we learn about the game-changing work of pioneers such as Dr. Beth Stevens, an associate professor of neurology at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard. Donna Jackson Nakazawa's fascinating exploration of neuroimmunology, a revolutionary field of study that holds great promise, sheds new light on the intricacies of the mind-body connection.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    Insightful and timely book on the brain This book was enthralling. As a neurological patient myself, I have been wanting to knowing there is anything tangible that can be done to improve my situation. Learning about the wonderful brain God has created, the tiny microglia that works as a warrior protector in our brains was fascinating. The fact it grows in fetal gestation at eight days only helps to confirm my stance on prenatal life. There are new developments being explored and some new findings Insightful and timely book on the brain This book was enthralling. As a neurological patient myself, I have been wanting to knowing there is anything tangible that can be done to improve my situation. Learning about the wonderful brain God has created, the tiny microglia that works as a warrior protector in our brains was fascinating. The fact it grows in fetal gestation at eight days only helps to confirm my stance on prenatal life. There are new developments being explored and some new findings in the areas of TBI and concussion injuries, lupus and MS. Even degenerative spine diseases with inflammation and autoimmune responses can benefit with new types of therapies and dietary insights. Case histories are explored and patients followed to end of treatment, with conclusions. Easy to read and highly informative.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Evonne

    This could be a life-changing book for me and for people I know. A tiny brain cell that develops from white blood cells and is part of the immune system can either support brain health or destroy it. In multiple ways in either case! Mental health "diseases" and "conditions", and physical health concerns are so often (an more often than we thought, as science is demonstrating) developed out of autoimmune functions. This little cell is a key (maybe not the only one) to understanding so much about w This could be a life-changing book for me and for people I know. A tiny brain cell that develops from white blood cells and is part of the immune system can either support brain health or destroy it. In multiple ways in either case! Mental health "diseases" and "conditions", and physical health concerns are so often (an more often than we thought, as science is demonstrating) developed out of autoimmune functions. This little cell is a key (maybe not the only one) to understanding so much about why we get sick, and how we can recover. I thought of so many people while reading this. I recommend it to everyone. Nakazawa is an excellent writer, taking complex neuroimmunology and making it accessible for regular folk like me. A wonderful read!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Lauren

    The author does a great job making complicated aspects of this biology accessible and understandable. Tiny cells that have been overlooked may in fact take a large part in how our brains function. Sometimes I am not sure of the total hard science- and I do appreciate her distinction between causation and correlation, which allows to to take some of her other conclusions more seriously. I enjoyed the book, different sections engaged me in different ways. It is refreshing and energizing to reimagin The author does a great job making complicated aspects of this biology accessible and understandable. Tiny cells that have been overlooked may in fact take a large part in how our brains function. Sometimes I am not sure of the total hard science- and I do appreciate her distinction between causation and correlation, which allows to to take some of her other conclusions more seriously. I enjoyed the book, different sections engaged me in different ways. It is refreshing and energizing to reimagine how we think things work and hopefully from that, obtain a clearer and more accurate understanding of how things can. and do work. I recommend.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I mostly enjoyed this. The author certainly does a nice job of explaining complicated info, and includes lots of stories and examples to humanize it and help keep it interesting. I found myself skimming some of the stories because I just didn't care. But that's my problem because those experiences kept it from be a boring, data dump. I just wanted to get "the answers/solutions" which don't exist in most cases, yet. This book describes briefly how some info was discovered and where it might lead. I mostly enjoyed this. The author certainly does a nice job of explaining complicated info, and includes lots of stories and examples to humanize it and help keep it interesting. I found myself skimming some of the stories because I just didn't care. But that's my problem because those experiences kept it from be a boring, data dump. I just wanted to get "the answers/solutions" which don't exist in most cases, yet. This book describes briefly how some info was discovered and where it might lead. Recommended for learners and the curious, not those seeking how to cure or fix inflammatory related health and brain issues. Well done overall. I really appreciate the ARC for review!!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (Yoda) Bishop

    So I honestly did not finish this book. However, it's not because it wasn't good. The topic was actually very interesting, but I typically don't enjoy nonfiction books, at least not ones about science. The level of research and personal stories was amazing. I love when authors, especially of nonfiction books, try to relate to all audiences to share their findings/stories. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves to read about science or anything brain related.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    I am sure I did not understand much of this book, but the author addressed the subject in such away that made it truly fascinating. We seem to be on the brink of learning so much more about the brain. Hopeful this knowledge will result in many emotionally and mentally challenged persons being helped to live more normal lives.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    It’s very detailed and kept my attention despite the density of the subject matter. I guess I was just looking for more answers (trans cranial magnetic stimulation treatment, neurofeedback, Prolon diet that mimics fasting?), but there’s still so much we don’t know.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Milan B

    Read it. Now. tl;dr version - How to tame microglia: background, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy, fasting-mimicking diet, etc etc.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Profound So many “answers” to questions I didn’t realize I had. The newly recognized connections between physical, emotional & environmental stresses explain much. Profound So many “answers” to questions I didn’t realize I had. The newly recognized connections between physical, emotional & environmental stresses explain much.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan Doherty

    Fantastic read. Strongly recommend for anyone studying psychology.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    * Read for the '2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge' task: A book on a subject you know nothing about

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jess Macallan

    Another brilliant book by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Highly recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roy Kenagy

    SOUTH 612.8 N :: EXAMINED 2/28/2020 :: READ1 :: UNDARK http://bitly.com/31khe0v SOUTH 612.8 N :: EXAMINED 2/28/2020 :: READ1 :: UNDARK http://bitly.com/31khe0v

  26. 5 out of 5

    Khan Ashraf Alif

    An important work of art 💕

  27. 5 out of 5

    Douglas R. Rushing

    Informative book about the role of microglia in brain health The is a cutting edge book about the newly discovered role of microglia in brain inflammation and neural health. It is based on sound science, contains compelling stories about new treatment methods for people with behavioral issues related to microglia anomalies, is well written. Highly recommended to anyone interested in their brain.

  28. 4 out of 5

    KarnagesMistress

    There is hope inside of these pages! If you have a loved one who is suffering from or could be at risk of developing one of the myriad neurological conditions affected by microglia, you need to read this book. Then, go through the Notes. Find the research that is applicable to your condition (there is a lot, and heavy-duty stuff, too, no clickbait puff pieces). Read them. Share the research with your medical professional, or use it to help you find a new one. The only chapter that I question is There is hope inside of these pages! If you have a loved one who is suffering from or could be at risk of developing one of the myriad neurological conditions affected by microglia, you need to read this book. Then, go through the Notes. Find the research that is applicable to your condition (there is a lot, and heavy-duty stuff, too, no clickbait puff pieces). Read them. Share the research with your medical professional, or use it to help you find a new one. The only chapter that I question is the one on fasting. I wonder if the fast-microglia connection isn't indirect or spurious. I'm not knocking the importance of a healthy diet, but, sure, if you suffer from an inflamed colon, and you only eat minimally, giving the colon large rest periods between, your colon will not be as grumpy. That's neither magic nor microglia. The rest of the treatments sound like worthwhile perusals. And, if it comes to that, future treatment options for the people I love. This book will also satisfy the 2020 Watauga County Public Library Reading Challenge categories: A Book with Alliteration in the Title; A Book About a Problem Society Is Facing Today; A Book by an Author Who Is New to You; A Non-Fiction Book; A Book with More than 300 pages; A Book Published in 2020; A Health Book. I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. It is an advance uncorrected proof.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Rogers

    Insightful, fascinating and relevant book about microglia and what scientists around the world have discovered of late. So many suffer from diseases of the mind and body, and this books sheds light on the subject in an enjoyable and interesting way. A must read!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robin

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