Sources: The Brain, the Nervous System, and Their Diseases

The Brain, the Nervous System, and Their Diseases. Edited by Jennifer L. Hellier. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2015. 3 vols. Acid free $294 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-337-0). Ebook available (978-1-61069-338-7).

Jenniefer L. Hellier’s The Brain, the Nervous System, and Their Diseases fulfills its purpose as a single, comprehensive resource that covers all aspects of the brain, nervous system, and the diseases effecting these organ systems. The text is easy to navigate: entries are listed alphabetically and by topic. A detailed index is also provided at the end of volume 3. The 333 entries vary in length from several paragraphs to multiple pages and include “see also” references and lists of further readings. Images, tables, charts, and graphs are provided when available. A list of recommended resources at the end of the encyclopedia provides only eight resources; however, each entry’s own list of further readings makes up for the brevity of this list. The encyclopedia covers a wide range of topics, from the anatomy of the nervous system to the diagnostic tests and treatment for various diseases of the nervous system. Though the encyclopedia is easy to use, the entries are written at a level that may be challenging for the editor’s target audience: high school and undergraduate students and the general consumer. A unique feature of the encyclopedia is the “Experiments and Activities” resource at the end of volume 3. This tool is a collection of various activities and experiments that help to illustrate many of the topics covered in the text. These activities not only benefit the reader but would be an excellent resource for high school or undergraduate instructors in need of lab and other hands-on activities that complement teachings on the brain and nervous system.

An additional strength of the text is the editor. Hellier is an expert in the field of neuroscience, with teaching and research experience. Though Hellier’s background is impressive, the authority of the contributors is questionable. The Hellier states that the contributors are “uniquely qualified to speak with authority regarding at least one aspect of the brain, the nervous system, and their diseases” (xxvi), and the backgrounds of the contributors include neuroscientists, neurologists, family physicians, psychologists, and public health professionals. She fails to explain why twenty-four of the seventy-three contributors are undergraduate students, not professionals. This calls into question the authority of the work. A student pursuing his or her bachelor’s degree does not possess the same or comparable authority of a neurologist. Due to the questionable authority of the contributors, the encyclopedia is not recommended as a resource for health care professionals or researchers.

Despite this drawback, the text fills a gap in the literature. While Carol Turkington’s Encyclopedia of the Brain and Brain Disorders (Facts On File, 2009) is more user friendly for the general consumer and high school student, it is not as comprehensive or detailed as Hellier’s work. Though the level of detail regarding the brain and neurological disorders in Noggle, Dean, and Horton’s The Encyclopedia of Neuropsychological Disorders (Springer, 2012) is comparable to Hellier’s text, it is a clinical resource written to aid health care professionals in patient care. Hellier provides a balance between both Turkington’s and Noggle, Dean, and Horton’s encyclopedias. The Brain, the Nervous System, and Their Diseases is a comprehensive introduction to neuroscience and neurology that is accessible for consumers and undergraduates. The level at which the text is written in combination with the “Experiments and Activities” resource also makes this resource an ideal teaching tool for high school and undergraduate educators.—Maria C. Melssen, Medical Librarian, Port Clinton, Ohio


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