Suggestible You: The Curious Science of Your Brain's Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal

Author:
Erik Vance
Publisher:
National Geographic
Category:
Biology

This book appeared in Advance Copy, a column in which NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here. Publication of NASW members’ reports in Advance Copy does not indicate NASW’s endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments, and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions. To join the discussion or submit your book, visit Advance Copy.

This riveting narrative explores the world of placebos, hypnosis, false memories, and neurology to reveal the groundbreaking science of our suggestible minds. Could the secrets to personal health lie within our own brains? Journalist Erik Vance explores the surprising ways our expectations and beliefs influence our bodily responses to pain, disease, and everyday events. Drawing on centuries of research and interviews with leading experts in the field, Vance takes us on a fascinating adventure from Harvard’s research labs to a witch doctor’s office in Catemaco, Mexico, to an alternative medicine school near Beijing (often called “China’s Hogwarts”). Vance’s firsthand dispatches will change the way you think — and feel.

Expectations, beliefs, and self-deception can actively change our bodies and minds. Vance builds a case for our “internal pharmacy” — the very real chemical reactions our brains produce when we think we are experiencing pain or healing, actual or perceived. Supporting this idea is centuries of placebo research in a range of forms, from sugar pills to shock waves; studies of alternative medicine techniques heralded and condemned in different parts of the world (think crystals and chakras); and most recently, major advances in brain mapping technology. Thanks to this technology, we're learning how we might leverage our suggestibility (or lack thereof) for personalized medicine, and Vance brings us to the front lines of such study.