On the Record

A conversation with Franklin Amthor, author of Neuroscience for Dummies (2011: For Dummies)

dummiesThere are many different ways to explain the brain and nervous system, says Franklin Amthor, Ph.D. (Psychology), who has taught courses in cognitive science, behavioral neuroscience, perception, and artificial intelligence at UAB. His new book offers a simpler perspective for a wider audience, but it attempts to answer the same fundamental questions that challenge his students: How do we think, learn, and remember?

UAB Magazine: How do you explain neuroscience in 384 pages?

Amthor: It was important to make the book readable without glossing over important details. I felt that an introduction to neuroscience should give the reader an understanding of neurons, the brain’s fundamental computing units, and then show how the brain is composed of many parallel modules. Each of these modules operates in a control hierarchy to transform sensory input into successful behavior.

UAB Magazine: How can a basic overview benefit readers?

Amthor: Neurological problems and mental illness affect everyone directly or indirectly, and the book explains common problems in terms that are understandable to any well-read person, including those who have taken few science courses. I also expect many college and health-professional students to use the book as a quick “catch-up” text for their courses.

UAB Magazine: Did you have to adapt your writing style?

Amthor: Dummies editors enforce a particular language style, clarity, and level far beyond anything I’ve encountered in 30 years of writing for scientific journals. It was the hardest writing I have ever done. They do not let you get away with using unfamiliar terms that you don’t explain clearly. I became a much better writer during this process.



_shelflife5Party Lines

Painting Dixie Red: When, Where, Why, and How the South Became Republican
Edited by Glenn Feldman
(2011: University Press of Florida)

Democrats once counted on the “Solid South” to boost their vote totals during elections. Today, however, the South seems to have made a solid shift to the right. In a series of essays edited by Feldman (College of Arts and Sciences), political scholars offer insights on the South as a Republican bastion, debating the factors behind the party switch, whether it’s a lasting change, and its larger impact on the electoral landscape of the United States.






_shelflife1Spirit of Survival

Confronting Cancer with Faith
By Karen O. Allen
(2011: Winepress Publishing)

Allen (Comprehensive Cancer Center) shares insights from her career in a UAB cancer research laboratory—and her own battle with breast cancer—to encourage and comfort cancer patients and their families. She describes how patients can find spiritual benefits along the way, transforming their experience with the disease into a journey of faith.






Progress in Your Pocket

The Sanford Guide to HIV/AIDS Therapy 2012
By Michael S. Saag, Henry F. Chambers, George M. Eliopoulos, David N. Gilbert, and Robert C. Moellering Jr.
(2011: Antimicrobial Therapy Inc.)

In this 20th-anniversary edition, Saag (Infectious Diseases) and his colleagues present updated recommendations for HIV care drawn from published medical literature, including the latest insights on antiretroviral therapy and treatment options that may help prevent the disease. A new section offers a thorough overview of hepatitis C, its diagnosis, and treatment regimens, as well as drugs in development. The pocket-sized format is designed to provide health professionals with essential data for medical decision-making; Web- and smartphone-based versions are also available.





_shelflife3Science Behind the Screams

Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America
By André Millard
(2012: Johns Hopkins University Press)

On February 9, 1964, an estimated 73 million Americans tuned in to see the Beatles’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, launching the British Invasion of American pop. The group has made millions for a host of business owners since, but the rise of Beatlemania wasn’t simply a result of their skill as performers and songwriters, argues Millard (History). Instead, the Fab Four benefited from a unique confluence of new technology, recording industry changes, and an increase in transatlantic commerce.






Blood Meridian

The Ten-Thousand Year Fever: Rethinking Human and Wild-Primate Malarias
By Loretta A. Cormier
(2011: Left Coast Press)

Alabama-born William Gorgas rightly earned fame as the “conqueror of the mosquito” for his work fighting malaria and yellow fever during the building of the Panama Canal. As Cormier (Anthropology) makes clear, however, malaria hasn’t given up the war it’s been fighting with humans and wild primates for thousands of years. Mining data from a wide range of fields, including molecular biology, ethnoprimatology, epidemiology, ecology, and anthropology, she explains how deforestation and development have opened the way for new forms of malaria to threaten us all. Learn more in this UAB Magazine feature.





_shelflife6Natural Rhythms

The Coal Life
By Adam Vines
(2012: University of Arkansas Press)

“The spotlight from a barge / searching for the bend / fidgets along the riverbank. A heron’s tar-gargling cry / recedes into fog / while an armadillo wobbles / through the thicket / like a lost child.” So begins “Prologue and Return,” the opening poem in this nature-infused, history-soaked collection. Vines (English), a former landscape painter and passionate outdoorsman who also leads UAB’s bass fishing team, ranges from the Biblical Adam to Hamlet and Belgian surrealist René Magritte, but the rhythms of the Alabama woods and early 20th-century coal-mining camps provide the dominant theme.