R. Douglas Fields: Electric Brain

The cover of the book Electric Brain

Cover: Electric Brain


R. Douglas Fields, PhD
BenBella, February 4, 2020, $26.95
ISBN-10: 1946885452; ISBN-13: 978-1946885456

Fields reports:

As a neuroscientist, I was stunned when I first heard the revolutionary advances in monitoring and manipulating electrical activity in the brain. That happened over five years ago when I attended a meeting of scientists doing brain research funded by the Office of Naval Research.

The researchers reported astounding abilities to use brainwave analysis and brain imaging to read people’s thoughts, transmit information from brain-to-brain, expose neurological and psychological illness, assess a person’s innate cognitive abilities and predict their aptitude to learn specific types of information, couple the human brain to computers, and more.

Neuroscience had crossed a threshold that will transform medicine and change society in profound ways. I began visiting these scientists’ laboratories to learn more, writing articles for Scientific American and ultimately this book.

A headshot of R. Douglas Fields

R. Douglas Fields

I sensed a deeper mystery beneath the science. The discovery of brainwaves is arguably the most important discovery in modern neuroscience. Why is the name of Hans Berger, the German psychiatrist who discovered human brainwaves in 1924, not well known? What motivated Berger to think that waves of electromagnetic energy radiated out of a person’s head? What did he think he had discovered, and how did other scientists react? Why did he keep his discovery a secret for five years? Why was there no Nobel Prize?

I traveled to Germany, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere to see the lab notebooks and what remained of the equipment from pioneering scientists working on brainwaves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I learned that the long-accepted story that Berger committed suicide in reaction to Nazism was false. The truth involves a tangle of science and society, intertwined with Nazi atrocities. Berger was a Nazi supporter who oversaw forced sterilizations of mental patients in the hospital he ran.

Andrew Stuart, my agent on my previous books, was instrumental in developing the proposal and in finding the right publisher for Electric Brain. My advice for aspiring authors is to pick your projects carefully, because writing a book will consume every minute of your spare time and energy.

Contact info:

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Feb. 26, 2020

Advance Copy

For this column, 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.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines to submit your report.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

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