Tuesday 19 February 2013

'Blame My Brain' by Nicola Morgan, reviewed by Rosalie Warren


As someone who constantly blames my brain for all sorts of things (not my fault - my brain did it!), I was intrigued by the title of Nicola Morgan's book and only slightly disappointed to learn that it was aimed at teenagers. Since I have many days when I feel that I am barely out of my teens (though the mirror, sadly, does not bear this out), I decided that the book might still be relevant to me, and indeed to my relationships with my no-longer-teenage children.

The subtitle is 'The amazing teenage brain revealed' and amazing is, I soon discovered, exactly what the teenage brain is. I learned that one of the things that happens to the brain in our early teenage years is a flurry of growth of the dendrites (connections between neurons), followed a few years later by a major pruning session where many of the relatively unused connections are culled and the remaining ones are strengthened and coated with a fatty myelin layer ready for adult life. Not surprisingly, all this activity is not without its downside for the person 'within', and it goes a long way towards explaining why teenagers can be so difficult to live with (and can find it so difficult to live with themselves).

There are also brain-based explanations of why teenagers need so much sleep, why they don't tidy their rooms, why they come alive when the rest of the world is going to sleep and why some of them, at least, are risk-takers. There's stuff about alcohol and drugs and why such things are not good for the brain, but all of it is written in a very sympathetic and understanding way that I think teenagers will warm to.

Nicola Morgan is not a neurologist or a professional scientist, but she clearly done a great deal of research and consulted experts including Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Professor Susan Greenfield, among many other eminent names in the field. Morgan has a gift for simplifying and explaining complicated subject matter with a light but precise touch, and she is careful to distinguish between established facts and theories and speculations of her own and other people's.

There's plenty of humour and a good few well-deserved digs at the crass stupidty of parents and other well-meaning but misguided adults, which teenagers will appreciate. There are diagrams, tests, photos (what emotions can you recognise? Do you confuse other emotions with anger? Apparently the teenage brain often does, which may explain quite a lot). What kind of thinker are you - which mental tasks do you find comparatively easy or difficult? There's also sound advice about addiction, self-harm, depression and other mental illnesses, and some pointers towards recognising when you may need to seek help.

The illustrations by Andy Baker are great, too. And oh yes - there's some interesting discussion on the differences between girls' brains and boys'. If there are any. You'll have to read it to find out...

I wish I'd had this book when I was a teenager (wish my parents had had a copy too). And that it had been around when my children were that age. It might have made me a better parent. Ah well - I will make sure I buy copies for any grandchildren I have, when they reach their teenage years.

This book was first published in 2005 and, I am sure, must have helped a great many young people and their parents and other carers since it first came out.

Title: Blame My Brain
Author: Nicola Morgan
Illustrator: Andy Baker
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
First Published: 2005

Happy reading! Best wishes,

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Gillian Philip said...

I have been meaning to buy this book for AGES for me and my nearly-teenage daughter. Your great review has reminded me how much I need it, so I am buying it TODAY! (before my brain forgets. Not me, my brain).

Penny Dolan said...

Yes, this a really great & densely packed book (in a good way.)

I plan to pass on my copy to my grown-up kids for pass on - eventually - to the grandkids.

Woe betide us if NM gets on to the problems of the well-too-mature brain. Those facts I do not want to know.

Nicola Morgan said...

Wow, what a lovely thing for me to read on a grey morning! Thanks, Ros. I probably shouldn't say this but...I recommend you DON'T buy it yet, Gillian - there's a new revised edition coming out in May! With a much nicer cover.

Unknown said...

Trauma Brain Injury has become very severe issue from the couple of years. Your report about the "blame my brain" is very informative and helpful to fight against brains severe diseases. traumatic brain injury

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