It is my first time to participate in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge – as inspired by Fats’ active involvement in this reading challenge since last year. Here are the books I endeavoured to read for the whole year. While we try as much as we can to fit the said books into our reading themes, there are some that simply defy themed classifications such as the one I am sharing today.
Written and Illustrated by: Dr. Matteo Farinella and Dr. Hana Roš
Published by: Nobrow Press, 2013 with the support of Wellcome Trust
Borrowed through inter-library loan.
One of the items in the Read Harder Challenge is to read a nonfiction book about science. I thought it is as good a time as any to sink my teeth into this graphic novel that depicts the inner mysteries and complex intricacies of the brain – and I was not disappointed. It reminded me of my university years when we had to take a course module called Psychobiology where we had to study the physical structure of the brain, its various layerings and cross-sections, as well as each of the tiny part’s functions. When I started teaching my psychology students, this was one of the subjects that I did not have a chance to teach them. This book by Drs. Farinella and Roš would have definitely come in handy.
The images as you can see above are in stark black-and-white that I feel make it even more effective. I also liked the manner in which the factual information is presented with such clarity which I think could also be attributed to the monochromatic format. In keeping with the convoluted nature of the brain, the story has its story-within-a-story going, delightfully meta in its representation of a man who found himself trapped in a stranger’s brain and perceiving it as a “dense forest.”
The book is divided into five sections (excluding the Prologue and Epilogue which are intriguing as well): Morphology, Pharmacology, Electrophysiology, Plasticity, and Synchronicity. I believe if I would review my old Biopsychology text, the chapters would most likely have been arranged in a similar fashion. Farinella and Roš have done a commendable job of making something that may be otherwise perceived as ‘dry’ by the average reader in such an engaging format, especially as they introduce important neuroscientists who were influential in shaping the field and allowed us a more intimate glimpse into the workings of the brain (see Santiago Ramon y Cajal above).
I also liked revisiting a few concepts that I tried very hard to visualize before as a psychology undergraduate and made infinitely simpler in this neurocomic:
Even the neurotransmitters had their own distinct traits and characteristics, not to mention appearance:
Needless to say, the reader is able to sense the painstaking care that Farinella and Roš used in ensuring that the entire narrative format is engaging and understandable, elegant in its simplicity yet it does not shirk complex concepts at the same time – no mean feat, really. Here is the Neuroland in graphic representation:
My absolute favourite, though, is how the comics represented Pavlovian classical conditioning. This is one of the things I still teach in my teacher-training institute as I discuss the fields of thought that led to behaviorism and principles of reinforcement. See Pavlov’s dog illustrated below:
I do believe, unreservedly, that this will be a perfect supplementary text to teachers of psychobiology, or just about anyone who would like to understand the highly complex nature of the brain. Here is a link to Neurocomic’s official website. I am also glad to find this youtube clip that documents the creative process that Farinella and Roš went through to create this gorgeous book. Enjoy!
Neurocomic counts towards my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: (4/24) Read a Nonfiction Book about Science.