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Brain Matters by Bruce H. Dobkin
Stories of a Neurologis and His Patients
Published by Crown Publishers in 1986
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


This book by a neurologist gives us insight into brain matter, both as the pinkish mass in our craniums and as the set of interactions produced by the nerves' endings carried to the extremities of our bodies. An establishment medical doctor, Dobkin, gives short shrift to holistic healing and the various pop remedies such as Rolfing, acupuncture, and energy work. Not replicable means not real medicine to Dr. Dobkin and he was not bashful about expressing his views as an expert witness on the matter. To his credit, he also expressed the belief that patients are the ultimate doctors and should be in charge of their own healing, even if that includes herbs under the tongue, elbows in the back, and needles in the earlobe.

The first half of the book applies a suction to the reader that pulls you clear to the end. He begins with a rock climber's creeping paralysis of uncertain prognosis and as we wonder about the eventual outcome of this patient, he switches to a comatose near-drowning victim of equally uncertain prognosis. Then a new patient, an interruption at dinner, a 5 AM callout, assisting at brain surgery, a fellow M.D. with brain swelling and suddenly we're tracking six or seven cases, all going on at the same time. Like watching a movie, we pop from a time slice of one patient to the next and catch the updates as soon as our hero does. We participate in the drama of his neurology practice (without having our sleep disturbed by phone calls from nurses).

Into this impersonal melange of neuropathology enters the author's father who is flown in from back east to the Daniel Freeman Center in Los Angeles suffering with brain problems that the author, hero, doctor, and loving son must cope with. The books ends soon after the drama with his father ends, the rock climber is back climbing rocks, and the readers have learned a lot about neuropathology, neurology, and Bruce H. Dobkin, M.D.

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