From Publishers Weekly
Based on the title, one might expect this to be a consumer health book offering cutting-edge stress-fighting techniques. Instead, brain researcher McEwen, who heads a neuroendocrinology lab at New York's Rockefeller University, presents a science text for laypeople who want to understand how brain biochemistry is altered during times of stress. He wrote the book to illustrate the paradox that "stress protects under acute conditions, but when activated chronically it can cause damage and accelerate disease." He illustrates this point by surveying some 50 years of lab research on how hormones and the immune system interact during temporary and chronic stress in people, animals and even tree shrews. In everyday terms, this syndrome is known as the "fight or flight response," but McEwen prefers the term "allostasis" for temporary stress and "allostatic" for chronic stress. Some of the studies are more intriguing than others (e.g., the chapter on voodoo death is infinitely more readable than discussions of immune function in distressed lab rats). A detailed appendix with charts of the endocrine and pituitary glands, as well as a bibliography with references to original journal studies make this a good pick for students entering the field of neuroscience, as well as scientists in other fields who are seeking to learn more. But laypeople who want to understand how stress affects the brain may be better off with Bill Moyers's less scientific but much more readable Healing and the Mind.