cover image Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body

Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body

Jo Marchant. Crown, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-34815-7

British science writer Marchant (Decoding the Heavens) explores the possibilities of psychology-based approaches to improving physical well-being in this open-minded, evidence-based account. She connects readers with practitioners who are meticulously demonstrating real physiological and perceptual effects of psychotherapeutic treatments, particularly for problems for which traditional medical solutions are unavailable or problematic. Despite the incompatibility of these practices with the scientific gold standard of double-blind testing, Marchant does her best to identify the science underlying them and cite repeatedly demonstrated results. Going beyond the placebo effect, Marchant looks at successes with “honest placebos,” physiological operant conditioning, hypnosis, virtual reality, meditation, and continuous compassionate care in providing real relief in pain reduction, improved physical outcomes, and patient satisfaction. The idea of the brain as “central governor” offers a possible framework for improving functional disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression by recalibrating the relationship between mind and body. It also appeals to patients who are weary of unhelpful medical interventions and dismissive accusations of hypochondria. Marchant has developed a powerful and critically needed conceptual bridge for those who are frustrated with pseudoscientific explanations of alternative therapies but intrigued by the mind’s potential power to both cause and treat chronic, stress-related conditions. Agent: Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Jan.)