Through the Looking Glass, Into the Brain
Book review! I just read Neurocomic (Amazon), a new graphic novel by Drs. Hana Ros & Matteo Farinella (who is on Tumblr). While not perfect, it presents the history and science of brain research in a way I’ve never before seen. I wish there was more of this art/science crossover in science books, don’t you?
Neurocomic is one man’s Lewis Carroll-esque journey through the human brain (his own?), where, after becoming trapped in a daydream, he encounters micro-avatars of the very neuroscientists who first unlocked the secrets of neuroscience. He also gets some rather psychedelic biology lessons along the way, falling through axons, parachuting out of synaptic vesicles, fighting the Kraken (who I assume has come for revenge on all that giant squid axon research that scientists have done over the years), discovering the power of hallucinogens (the hard way… no, make that the FUN way), and even breaking up some fisticuffs between Messrs. Golgi and Ramon y Cajal.
But like any book that attempts to hit every highlight of neuroscience, as well as the people who have studied it, in less than 150 pages, it was often superficial, and I was left wanting in parts. This book’s a bit like the cerebral cortex in that way: Interesting and full of action, but ultimately concealing a lot of cool stuff going on underneath. While the text was a bit academic in parts, the illustrations are superb, both fantastic and fantastical. I half expected the Cheshire Cat to pop up (instead I got a talking version of Pavlov’s dog).
Neurocomic won’t leave you ready to enter a neuroscience PhD program, but it does present some amazing science in a genre-busting, outlandish, imaginative way. All in all, journey through the looking glass into an imaginary world inside our own minds. And isn’t that what reading a story is all about?