Adrenaline

Brian B Hoffman, Author
Brian B. Hoffman, M.D. Harvard Univ, $24.95 (294p) ISBN 978-0-674-05088-4
Hardcover - 305 pages - 978-0-674-07471-2
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It can save or extinguish a life, and it’s as relevant in the office and gym as it is in the emergency room. But Hoffman, a Harvard professor of medicine, insists that adrenaline—whose powerful fight-or-flight effect puts the heart into overdrive, opens the lungs to airflow, and stimulates the liver to flood the bloodstream with glucose—has a storied past that also sheds light on “the history of scientific ideas and medical progress,” biomedical entrepreneurship, and the thrill of risky behavior. His “biography of adrenaline” is medical history at its best, revealing the blend of genius, guts, and luck that transformed a hunch into a breakthrough—from 19th-century physician Thomas Addison’s insights into the function of the adrenal glands to the beginnings of endocrinology (and the surprising use of hundreds of sheep thyroids to cure a human patient), the heartbreaking Nobel Prize snub of a canny Japanese scientist and biotechnology pioneer, and the myriad other drugs developed after the discovery of adrenaline. Hoffman notes that there’s still much to know about the relationship between the body and brain when it comes to triggering emotions, but in the meantime, this thoughtful and exuberant exploration will satisfy both professional and lay readers. 5 halftones, 2 line illus. (Apr.)
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