Book Review: “Your Brain on Food”

“Your Brain on Food” is a nonfiction book written by Dr. Gary Wenk, a professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the Ohio State University. The book gives a detailed look at how various drugs affect our brains and also touches on what these drugs can teach us about various mental disorders. The chapters are organized by the neurotransmitters (your brain’s chemical signals) that each class of drugs affects.

My first impression of this book is that it would be more aptly named “Your Brain on Psychoactive Drugs.” While there is some mention of food, including cinnamon and coffee, licit and illicit drugs are the primary focus. Though it’s true that the line between “drug” and “food” is often fuzzy (i.e., coffee is a food but also contains psychoactive chemicals), the book’s title implies an emphasis on what we’d typically consider food, which simply is not present. That being said, if you’re looking to learn more about psychoactive drugs, from why allergy meds make you drowsy to why heroin is so addictive, this book provides an excellent overview of that topic.

This book may present something of a challenge for a reader who has not taken a recent class in neuroscience or pharmacology. However, if you’re willing to keep your smartphone handy to occasionally Google unfamiliar words or topics, I believe most people will be able to get the gist of what’s being said. Whether or not you’ve partaken in illicit drug use in the past, you’ll be amazed to learn how and why each drug has such different affects on our behavior, as well as what these highs and lows have helped us to learn about the neurotransmitters that allow our brain to function.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars


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