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What happens during a heart attack? Can someone really die of fright? What is death, anyway? How does electroshock treatment affect the brain? What is consciousness? The answers to these questions lie in the electrical signals constantly traveling through our bodies, driving our thoughts, our movements, and even the beating of our hearts. The history of how scientists disco What happens during a heart attack? Can someone really die of fright? What is death, anyway? How does electroshock treatment affect the brain? What is consciousness? The answers to these questions lie in the electrical signals constantly traveling through our bodies, driving our thoughts, our movements, and even the beating of our hearts. The history of how scientists discovered the role of electricity in the human body is a colorful one, filled with extraordinary personalities, fierce debates, and brilliant experiments. Moreover, present-day research on electricity and ion channels has created one of the most exciting fields in science, shedding light on conditions ranging from diabetes and allergies to cystic fibrosis, migraines, and male infertility. With inimitable wit and a clear, fresh voice, award-winning researcher Frances Ashcroft weaves together compelling real-life stories with the latest scientific findings, giving us a spectacular account of the body electric.


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What happens during a heart attack? Can someone really die of fright? What is death, anyway? How does electroshock treatment affect the brain? What is consciousness? The answers to these questions lie in the electrical signals constantly traveling through our bodies, driving our thoughts, our movements, and even the beating of our hearts. The history of how scientists disco What happens during a heart attack? Can someone really die of fright? What is death, anyway? How does electroshock treatment affect the brain? What is consciousness? The answers to these questions lie in the electrical signals constantly traveling through our bodies, driving our thoughts, our movements, and even the beating of our hearts. The history of how scientists discovered the role of electricity in the human body is a colorful one, filled with extraordinary personalities, fierce debates, and brilliant experiments. Moreover, present-day research on electricity and ion channels has created one of the most exciting fields in science, shedding light on conditions ranging from diabetes and allergies to cystic fibrosis, migraines, and male infertility. With inimitable wit and a clear, fresh voice, award-winning researcher Frances Ashcroft weaves together compelling real-life stories with the latest scientific findings, giving us a spectacular account of the body electric.

30 review for The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book is life-altering and paradigm changing. If you've not been amazed by your own body just yet, first,shame on you, and second, buy this book and keep it as a national treasure! The overall content of the book is about how electricity is generated in our amazing bodies. All of our thousands of cells contain potassium, and outside of the cell is highly concentrated with sodium. Within all of our cells, we have these amazing things called ion channels that are "innervated" by a multitude This book is life-altering and paradigm changing. If you've not been amazed by your own body just yet, first,shame on you, and second, buy this book and keep it as a national treasure! The overall content of the book is about how electricity is generated in our amazing bodies. All of our thousands of cells contain potassium, and outside of the cell is highly concentrated with sodium. Within all of our cells, we have these amazing things called ion channels that are "innervated" by a multitude of things, and they open and close, letting sodium in and potassium out. This very act of exchanging within the protein of the ion channels is the very thing that innervates us! We literally are the body electric! We're amazing! These ion channels are literally responsible for everything. If you have a defective ion channel, you could have an ailment that you already know about, but little did you know that the ailment is due to ion channels! Everything - our senses, our brains, our emotions, personality, behavior all boils down to ion channels. It literally moves me to tears! I highly recommend this book! When I get accepted into the PhD program I want, guess what my dissertation will be on? :D

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    I think most of us are aware that the human body uses both chemical and electrical signalling to control its inner functions, but until I read this book I had certainly never realised that extent to which a rather strange electrical process (strange because it involves the flow not of electrons as in ‘normal’ electricity, but of ions) is handled by ion channels. After a preface that is a little confusing as she uses terms that aren’t really explained until later, biologist Frances Ashcroft, who s I think most of us are aware that the human body uses both chemical and electrical signalling to control its inner functions, but until I read this book I had certainly never realised that extent to which a rather strange electrical process (strange because it involves the flow not of electrons as in ‘normal’ electricity, but of ions) is handled by ion channels. After a preface that is a little confusing as she uses terms that aren’t really explained until later, biologist Frances Ashcroft, who spends her days working with ion channels, gives us a brief introduction to electricity. This physics part is by far the weakest bit of the book. For example she doesn’t differentiate between a flow of electrons and the electromagnetic signal in a wire – and some of the history is a little out of date (she says, for instance, that Franklin did the ‘kite in a thunderstorm’ experiment, which is thought unlikely now). But this is only an introductory phase before we get into the meat of the book, which is quite fascinating. Ashcroft explains how ion channels can open and close to allow a flow of ions through, and how electrical energy is involved in making these essential cell components function. This is absolutely fascinating from the first mention of sodium pumps (I was hoping to come across the medication type proton pump inhibitors, which like many thousands of people I take, but if they were mentioned I missed it). It is remarkable how this essential part of cell function wasn’t properly understood until around 50 years ago. For the rest of the book we are taken on a tour of the body and the way that ion channels have a powerful influence on everything from poisoning to the functioning of memory. It is quite mind-boggling just how much these tiny channels do for us – always dependent on that electrical motive power. For me – and it is fair to say that my biology tolerance is pretty low – the book did get a little repetitious in some ways, if only because of the central role of ion channels throughout. I suspect, though, for many, the connection with the functioning of the human body will keep that interest going – and Ashcroft has a light, approachable tone and makes sufficient ventures into the wider picture to keep the reader on-board. Overall a subject that clearly needed writing about, carefully and entertainingly revealed. Review first published on www.popularscience.co.uk and reproduced with permission

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    Since I’m in the middle of my female authors only month, I thought now would be a good time to get round to some of the non-fiction books I have by women, especially in the STEM field. I’d forgotten I had this one, which is a shame: it fits into my general theme of reading about neurology, and builds on a lot of the stuff about ion channels that I learnt in an introductory biology class on Coursera. I understood pretty much all the science without wanting or needing to look anything up, or letti Since I’m in the middle of my female authors only month, I thought now would be a good time to get round to some of the non-fiction books I have by women, especially in the STEM field. I’d forgotten I had this one, which is a shame: it fits into my general theme of reading about neurology, and builds on a lot of the stuff about ion channels that I learnt in an introductory biology class on Coursera. I understood pretty much all the science without wanting or needing to look anything up, or letting anything wash over my head: in part, that’s because Ashcroft writes very accessibly, but I think it is also because this is stuff I know and love. Some of it is a little too much towards the neurology end of things for me. I wanted more about electricity in the human body — more of the sparks — and less of the chemical messages (the soups, in that old scientific debate); this veered towards talking much more about the chemical parts of the process, especially toward the end. On the other hand, it’s the chemical processes that create the electrical potentials and make all of the electricity in the human body (and other animals too) possible, so it’s quite inextricable. It just felt like it wandered. Calling the book The Spark of Life is a little misleading, perhaps. It talks about electricity in the body, yeah, but that’s too small a part of the process to be considered alone, and a lot of other factors have to be discussed at quite some length. Ashcroft uses good examples, and explains things clearly; there’s a section of notes in the back for those who want to get a little deeper into it. Originally posted here.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mila

    For such an interesting topic, reading this book really felt like a chore sometimes. The author jumped from one topic to another a lot, had too many unnecessary details and dates, and the overall writing style just wasn't engaging enough, in my opinion. I still found some chapters quite interesting, so 3 stars. For such an interesting topic, reading this book really felt like a chore sometimes. The author jumped from one topic to another a lot, had too many unnecessary details and dates, and the overall writing style just wasn't engaging enough, in my opinion. I still found some chapters quite interesting, so 3 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    A well written and balanced book, that gets neither too complex or patronising, delivering the technical facts at a rate they can be absorbed by the layperson, interspersed with a level of anecdotes that keep it flowing at an agreeable rate, without it becoming a tome of personal triumph or vehicle for misplaced humour as is often the case with less diligent science authors.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Rating: 4 of 5 Okay, so I think I'll have to read The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body at least three or four more times to fully understand everything Ashcroft covered. It was fascinating to learn the history of electricity and I couldn't get enough of Chapter 9, "The Doors of Perception." Even for non-scientists, like moi, there is much to learn from The Spark of Life despite its scientific terminology and explanations. What I loved most about the book was how much it made (is makin Rating: 4 of 5 Okay, so I think I'll have to read The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body at least three or four more times to fully understand everything Ashcroft covered. It was fascinating to learn the history of electricity and I couldn't get enough of Chapter 9, "The Doors of Perception." Even for non-scientists, like moi, there is much to learn from The Spark of Life despite its scientific terminology and explanations. What I loved most about the book was how much it made (is making) me think and wonder. The freakiest part of the whole book was pages 309-311 when Ashcroft shared her desire for "a more intimate connection" between the brain and a computer. To paraphrase, she'd like the ability to physically connect her brain to a computer in order to instantly access memories and important information. She admits this is "currently only science fiction. But science fiction often has a way of becoming science fact." Anyone see this episode of X-Files? I'll pass, thank you very much. Notes to self: "Ion channels are truly the 'spark of life' for they govern every aspect of our behavior (p.5)." Channel dysfunction is responsible for many diseases. Luigi Galvani first discovered 'animal electricity' = galvanism Thomas-Francois Dalibard, not Ben Franklin, was the first to demonstrate that lightning is an electrical discharge. Alessandro Volta invested the first electric battery = volt (unit of electrical potential) "We too are electrical machines and the electrical currents lie at the heart of life itself (p.33)." Opposite charges attract one another. Similar charges repel. (p.36) Electrical signal travels almost the speed of light: 186 million miles per second; nerve impulses at 0.07 miles per second. (p. 37) Bioelectricity Ion channels are the gatekeepers of the cell. Queen of Poisons = aconite or aconitine which comes from monkshood (wolfsbane) a pretty plant with a tall spike of blue helmet-shaped flowers. (pp. 75-76) Some species of rhododendron = grayanotoxin. Bees feed on those flowers, people eat those bees' honey = 'mad honey syndrome' (p.77) "'The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy' - Paracelsus (p.81)." Electrical eel, torpedo (sting ray) (p.122)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    The Spark of Life is a fascinating tour of the electrochemical system in the human body. Starting with the discovery of electricity and the subsequent evolution in the understanding of the role of electricity in the body, Ashcroft cogently explains in relatively deep technical detail the many aspects of the human electrical system. I had not known about the many different ways that tetrodotoxin (the toxin in fugu), curare, sarin, and other toxins do their damage, whether blocking shut ion channe The Spark of Life is a fascinating tour of the electrochemical system in the human body. Starting with the discovery of electricity and the subsequent evolution in the understanding of the role of electricity in the body, Ashcroft cogently explains in relatively deep technical detail the many aspects of the human electrical system. I had not known about the many different ways that tetrodotoxin (the toxin in fugu), curare, sarin, and other toxins do their damage, whether blocking shut ion channels, blocking open ion channels, preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, etc. There’s also a good explanation, and funny picture, of myotonic (fainting) goats. I read about 2/3 of this book before having to return it to my local library because it was closing for renovations for an extended period of time. After it reopened and I was able to check it out again, I remembered how much I enjoyed the book and I started over from the first page. I virtually never read a book twice, so that it is a very positive compliment. My biggest criticism of the book is that some chapters, especially in the second half, come across as collections of somewhat related bits of information about electricity in the human body. Now, this info was still fascinating, but it felt at times like reading from Wikipedia pages. But very well-written ones.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    A scientist talking about 'electricity in the human body' ties into energy therapy, design in nature and...... the dots are starting to join up -but I'm only on p58....! A scientist talking about 'electricity in the human body' ties into energy therapy, design in nature and...... the dots are starting to join up -but I'm only on p58....!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anushri Gupta

    Pros: I learned a lot of things reading this book, the critical roles of ion channels and the fascinating way our senses translate mechanical and chemical stimuli to electrical ones, how our brains and nerves are wired up to process those stimuli. Cons: This book is dense and at times it felt very cumbersome. Some major restructuring would probably go a long way. Hence the taking half a year to read it. I was not anticipating the big history lesson on eels and Freud and Galvani, and it took me a Pros: I learned a lot of things reading this book, the critical roles of ion channels and the fascinating way our senses translate mechanical and chemical stimuli to electrical ones, how our brains and nerves are wired up to process those stimuli. Cons: This book is dense and at times it felt very cumbersome. Some major restructuring would probably go a long way. Hence the taking half a year to read it. I was not anticipating the big history lesson on eels and Freud and Galvani, and it took me a long time to get through it to reach the parts of the book that talked about the electricity of the human body according to contemporary science. While the history bit was fun, maybe there was too much of it. On a personal note, the account of Phineas Gage felt too focused on the gory stuff and too little on the other fascinating details of it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    Do you thirst for in depth explanations about how your body works? If so, read this book. We know well how an electric cord works when plugged into an outlet and a switch is flipped. But what plugs you in? What sort of current does the human body use to breathe, eat, move, have sex, read a book, or even to sit and think? Ashcroft goes into great detail about the currents that make you an active system. Instead of an outlet in a wall, the currents inside humans, and other animals, are generated b Do you thirst for in depth explanations about how your body works? If so, read this book. We know well how an electric cord works when plugged into an outlet and a switch is flipped. But what plugs you in? What sort of current does the human body use to breathe, eat, move, have sex, read a book, or even to sit and think? Ashcroft goes into great detail about the currents that make you an active system. Instead of an outlet in a wall, the currents inside humans, and other animals, are generated by tiny ions that flow through ion channels. This is the thermodynamics of life at its best. (Though she never actually mentions thermodynamics). Ashcroft included all the best concepts learned in classes such as intro to neuroscience, intermediate biochen, and the lighter aspects of neurocellular biochem and neurophysics. For example, she does an amazing job of explaining how the inside of the cell has a high potassium concentration, while the outside of the cell has high sodium concentration. This creates a gradient that allows the current of bio-electricity to continually flow through the body. Having done such a great job simplifying that for the reader, Ashcroft was perfectly positioned to explain how that current is turned into axon potentials, which govern every process in which humans engage. She really brought the magic of cells and ion channels alive. Energy flow in the human body, and in all cells, is one of my favorite topics to read about and think about. It's hard to find a book this detailed. Some authors choose this subject to write about, but their numbers are surprisingly few. Nick Lane's Life ascending and Power, Sex, and Suicide were extremely satisfying for me but not as relatable as Ashcroft's writing. I have to say, I felt entirely perplexed that Ashcroft believes that life probably began in a tiny little pond. I have no idea how she can believe this. It's entirely possible Nick Lane, along with Martin and Russell, are wrong in their hypothesis that life originated at the hydrothermal vents. But if life did not originate there, it seems necessary -- not just likely-- that it arose somewhere that provided the energy needed to create and maintain enzymes that make cellular products. This aspect of the book will bother me continuously until I understand how she can account for the needed energy of the enzymes. She is far more knowledgeable than I am, as is Nick Lane. So I am sure there is something I missing about her hypothesis. But it's driving me crazy, and she did not write about where the energy would have come from in her scenario. From page one, I fell in love with this book. It was quickly clear that this was the biochem (ion channel) book I have been looking for all my life! I remember learning about how our brain cells work to help us see, smell, taste, hear, see, and touch our world. My mind was completely blown away, because I simply could not believe nature could be that beautiful and that brilliant. But it is, and Ashcroft did a great job of conveying how much of that brilliance is due to ion channels. Ashcroft herself states that "This is a book about ion channels." Indeed it is. For it is the ion channel that takes every experience you will ever have with the world around you and detects, transmits, and processes every last bit of it so that you can even call it an experience. It was clear to me that Ashcroft is in awe of the body, which has as many cells as the galaxy has stars, and the brains inside those bodies. She wrote about action potentials, resting potentials on each side of the membrane and why that matters (and how that makes you able to function and live in the world). Despite having read so much similar material for years, Ashcroft made my dopamine neurons go crazy during each page because she explains it all so tremendously well. I would have been happy with a book 4 times as long! Her coverage of cell suicide was crazy good; so good in fact, I kept saying, "How can this book even exist?" (I *really* love cells). Cells kill themselves all the time for the good of the system (the animal body). For example, if cells did not undergo apoptosis during our fetal development, we would all have webbed fingers and toes. If cells didn't undergo apoptosis after we were born, our brains simply could not function. After she provided examples of apoptosis in the human animal, she wrote about the actual process of apoptosis in which the cell takes over the mitochondria and directs it to kill itself. (so good!) She gave a beautiful description of photosynthesis, but it is likely not what you have heard before. Yes, she covers the basics, but she tells the story of photosynthesis from the perspective of the ion channel. The last part of the book discussed what happens when ion channels work or do not work correctly. The result is a sensual experience of the world or an inability to sense the world. This section came alive with great examples, including somme little known trivia about Monet. Thank you Frances Ashcroft for writing a book that makes me feel like I was lucky enough to hop on a plane, fly over to England, take a seat in your lecture hall at Oxford University, and learn the intricate details about the energetics of animal systems -- and not to have to do problem sets or take exams. The only thing that would make me happier would be for Ashcroft to put her lectures in a public domain so I could watch every last one of them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Demer

    This was not a fast read, but quite understandable to the educated layperson. I learned a great deal- from the AC or DC wars of Edison and Tesla, to the ways ion channels, which are proteins, control whether and when certain ions pass into or out of the cells-causing electrical currents throughout the neurons, causing muscles to contract and glands to secrete (or not). The history of the discovery of electricity was great and the means by which it has been used for good or ill to treat many diff This was not a fast read, but quite understandable to the educated layperson. I learned a great deal- from the AC or DC wars of Edison and Tesla, to the ways ion channels, which are proteins, control whether and when certain ions pass into or out of the cells-causing electrical currents throughout the neurons, causing muscles to contract and glands to secrete (or not). The history of the discovery of electricity was great and the means by which it has been used for good or ill to treat many different maladies was a very interesting aspect of the book. The fact that the ion channels can be deformed due to genetic mutations causing lifelong serious illness was fascinating, as well as the possibility of finding ways to treat these problems. The functions of the sense organs and various receptors, including those for taste and pain were elucidated. I found a plausible explanation of why some people are more sensitive to pain than others, requiring more pain medication for example, a subject I often wondered about. (It's all about Nav1.7 sodium channels. A common genetic variant in these protein channels can determine a pain threshold.) I think I would like to own this book-I got it from the library-because there is so much information that will be hard to remember. I would like to refer to it often. Maybe I will get a copy for Christmas???

  12. 5 out of 5

    April

    Ashcroft covers an impressive breadth of the history and science of electricity. The beginning and the end chapters are the most interesting for me as they survey the initial discovery of electricity in bodies (twitchy frogs and electrifying monks and criminals; and the ac, dc wars of Tesla and Edison, etc). The middle (bulk of the book) covers current scientific knowledge with some forays into clinical studies, and a few occasional wanderings through history as well. By necessity this middle pa Ashcroft covers an impressive breadth of the history and science of electricity. The beginning and the end chapters are the most interesting for me as they survey the initial discovery of electricity in bodies (twitchy frogs and electrifying monks and criminals; and the ac, dc wars of Tesla and Edison, etc). The middle (bulk of the book) covers current scientific knowledge with some forays into clinical studies, and a few occasional wanderings through history as well. By necessity this middle part is a bit lengthy and at times boring, and I wish it had the energy of the chapters at either end of the book, but I think it's just the dryness of the material (for a scientific layperson such as myself--it gets a bit 'textbook-y') and not for lack of skill with writing about the material by the author.

  13. 4 out of 5

    William Rawson

    Dr. Frances Ashcroft is a Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford and an award- winning scientist and author. She received the 2013 Lewis Thomas Prize for Science Writing for her work on both this book and her earlier one: Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival. The Spark of Life is comprised of an introduction, twelve chapters, a host of footnotes, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive index. Each chapter is opened with a quote, lyric, or some prose which the a Dr. Frances Ashcroft is a Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford and an award- winning scientist and author. She received the 2013 Lewis Thomas Prize for Science Writing for her work on both this book and her earlier one: Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival. The Spark of Life is comprised of an introduction, twelve chapters, a host of footnotes, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive index. Each chapter is opened with a quote, lyric, or some prose which the author uses to tie in the subject matter for the ensuing few pages. The book begins with a look into the history of man’s relationship with electricity, in the form of a number of chronologically arranged stories from different points in history and parts of the world. These cover notable figures and show the many, step-by-step discoveries that lead mankind to the understanding of electricity that we have today. Then it moves on to ground the reader in the underlying mechanics of bioelectricity and the inner workings of the cellular and neural systems of information transfer. Each time that Dr. Ashcroft describes how a fundamental mechanism works in healthy individuals, she proceeds to further convey understanding by elucidating the myriad of things than can go wrong with that mechanism, and what symptoms those malfunctions and dysfunctions produce. Examples of fainting goats, synaesthesia, pigs that overheat themselves to death, and many other rarities covered in popular media are explained at a simple and yet comprehensive level. The book contains 31, clear, black-and-white images interspersed within the text. These range from copies of old prints, photographs of ancient relief sculptures, instructional scientific line drawings, optical illusions, to transmission electron microscope images, and are always relevant to the text. Dr Ashcroft’s passion and enthusiasm for her work come across clearly in her energetic writing style and personal anecdotes of her experiences interacting with some of the people mentioned in the book. She has clearly been intimately involved with the course of the research being discussed and repeatedly gives first-hand accounts of relevant techniques, laboratories, people and experiments. Despite the considerable challenge of explaining advanced concepts like cellular ion channels, neural synapses, and resting action potentials, her deep understanding of her field allows her to describe these phenomena in terms that are accessible to the layman. Interspersed with these fundamental paradigms of cellular function are numerous fascinating examples that consolidate the ideas being explained. Stories about electric eels, torpedo rays, puffer fish venom, the electric chair, deadly nightshade, Venus flytraps, fruit that confuses your tongue and makes bitter and sour taste sweet, and why hot, cold and pain feel so similar, to name but a few, kept me turning pages eager to learn more. Her enthusiasm is further espoused by her creative integration of poetry, quotes, prose and pictures into what is already a compelling read. Her references to the movies Star Trek and Aliens were a delight to read and forged a rapport that humanised her more as a fellow geek, than the stereotypical monotonous, droning professor. I found her chapters on the senses particularly interesting. While sight and hearing have been covered excessively as topics, she also went into some detail on taste, smell and touch. These were conceptually fairly new ground for me and I felt that, although it was only a brief covering of the topics, I learned a lot as my exposure to them was so minimal. My only point of frustration was with the layout of the footnotes which appear as an in- text superscript number referring to the relevant note which can be found in the Footnotes section at the back of the book. Because the footnotes were all so interesting and relevant I ended up reading the book open in two places, fingers jammed between them, like on old “Choose your own adventure book”. It very much broke the flow of what was otherwise an absolute pleasure to read. The nature of some of the content did mean that there were a few sections that required some focused attention to understand, but these were significantly outweighed by many interesting stories and factoids that made this book one I would recommend to those who are interested in the topic, or those who are generally curious about the world and enjoy a broad general knowledge.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sadaf

    A book about the critical role of ion channels in regulating the cellular activity of various organisms, big and small. Dr. Ashcroft has worked in this field for a long time, and, in fact, discovered the potassium ATP channel's role in insulin secretion. The first few chapters of the book delve into the history of various discoveries relating to electrical stimulation of muscles and nerves, and how they helped lay the foundation of our understanding of the role of minute electric currents in reg A book about the critical role of ion channels in regulating the cellular activity of various organisms, big and small. Dr. Ashcroft has worked in this field for a long time, and, in fact, discovered the potassium ATP channel's role in insulin secretion. The first few chapters of the book delve into the history of various discoveries relating to electrical stimulation of muscles and nerves, and how they helped lay the foundation of our understanding of the role of minute electric currents in regulating the opening and closing of ion channels. The rest of the book is about the workings of ion channels at the cellular level (such as the action potential), types of channels (sodium, potassium, calcium), their role in plants (such as the venus flytrap) and animals (such as the electric eel). Like so many other popular science books, it also has a lot of anecdotes about how many of the pioneers in this field had to struggle for years to make their discoveries. It is a light read, and a good introduction to this fascinating field for anybody who is slightly familiar with ion channels, but maybe slightly disappointing to those who already know the basics.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    One thing this book can't be accused of is taking 150 pages of content and superficially padding it out to reach a publisher's 300 page goal. Sometimes it can be a bit of a slough, maybe more geared towards anyone studying biology, but dang if it ain't thorough. It covers the history of studying electricity, and experimentally the discoveries involved in bioelectricity. It goes through not only applications of the subject in terms of regular body functions like the nervous system, but it goes al One thing this book can't be accused of is taking 150 pages of content and superficially padding it out to reach a publisher's 300 page goal. Sometimes it can be a bit of a slough, maybe more geared towards anyone studying biology, but dang if it ain't thorough. It covers the history of studying electricity, and experimentally the discoveries involved in bioelectricity. It goes through not only applications of the subject in terms of regular body functions like the nervous system, but it goes almost down to the molecular mechanisms of pathologies related to defects, in case anyone was looking for real life examples and applications of topics learned in the membrane and cellular signaling chapters of any upper division biology course. The title is misleading too; it's not just the human body. It goes through the mechanisms of animals that use electricity as a defense, as well as how certain plant toxins utilize the body's electrical gradients to cause harm.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    This book provides valuable information on epilepsy. I also like how it describes the procedure which involves the severing of the Corpus Callosum, in how upon going through such a procedure, individuals could not tell their left hand from their right hand and also possessed issues in getting their fingertips to feel whatever they touch. The author does a good job illustrating (in verbiage) this procedure, and further states that such a procedure is unlawful in many countries (as it should be). I This book provides valuable information on epilepsy. I also like how it describes the procedure which involves the severing of the Corpus Callosum, in how upon going through such a procedure, individuals could not tell their left hand from their right hand and also possessed issues in getting their fingertips to feel whatever they touch. The author does a good job illustrating (in verbiage) this procedure, and further states that such a procedure is unlawful in many countries (as it should be). I would recommend this book to any serious reader or researcher.

  17. 4 out of 5

    T Seamus

    For someone who knows basic cell biology & physiology, this book offers nothing new. It's clickbait. "Electricity in the human body"? Give me a break. "Channels of life" might have been a more accurate title. I was expecting a new theory, hypothesis, idea etc. Nothing. Just a summary of basic neuroscience and some trivia. 50% on explaining the basics and giving contexts, 25% on trivia that have little connection with ion channels, and the rest on ion channels & its mutants causing disorders. I was e For someone who knows basic cell biology & physiology, this book offers nothing new. It's clickbait. "Electricity in the human body"? Give me a break. "Channels of life" might have been a more accurate title. I was expecting a new theory, hypothesis, idea etc. Nothing. Just a summary of basic neuroscience and some trivia. 50% on explaining the basics and giving contexts, 25% on trivia that have little connection with ion channels, and the rest on ion channels & its mutants causing disorders. I was expecting something more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alia Makki

    Ini buku tentang apa sih? I was looking for a book about human electricity. Bio-electricity. The transference of that energy into usable forms other than digestion and hormones. I was looking for the vocabulary that explains the things that I do when I’m healing. Instead? Instead, I heard funny things about myopic goats. And beyond that, I remember nothing else. Why am I so unimpressed? Why did this book feel rushed? And it felt like I’ve read a million like it elsewhere before.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Rizzo

    I really wanted to like this but was underwhelmed. The topic itself is interesting but I found the structure of the book off-putting. The author jumps all over the map and tries to cover everything from consciousness to seeing sounds and it’s hard to take much away from it. Overall, many interesting tidbits dispersed throughout but certainly not my favourite execution.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Nice review Much of the content has been an overall review of A&P some general and some with a bit more depth or scientific studies or interest stories I already knew. A bit slow to get into and an ocassional inaccuracy but otherwise a worthy read if you need refreshing or are not familiar with such topics.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lissa

    I had the audio version and between the dry writing style and the narrator's voice and inflections, I could not get through this book, even tho I find the topic fascinating. I had the audio version and between the dry writing style and the narrator's voice and inflections, I could not get through this book, even tho I find the topic fascinating.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    History of the science of studying electricity in the human body. Not so interesting to me, though I did learn a few things!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ollie

    Great book and a fascinating read about the nervous system and the scientific history related to different aspects of its discovery

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cedomir Spalevic

    This was a great book that gave you a peek into some of the complexities of life. The book was a bit dry at times, but it is filled with knowledge.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eduard Hakobyan

    Fantastic book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jacque

    Frances Ashcroft is a brilliant writer.

  27. 5 out of 5

    YETTA

    I gave this 5 stars as it was a non stop fun from beginning to end!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mr Richard P Hill

    Amazing book! Wish I had read it before my bioscience course. Ashcroft really brings the subject matter to life and writes in a very approachable way. - Text book authors take note! That said, it is on the dense side and I found I had to re-read a few pages to fully grasp what Ashcroft was getting at. All in all, I enjoyed reading it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Teo 2050

    2019.06.06–2019.06.20 Contents Ashcroft F (2012) (14:08) Spark of Life, The - Electricity in the Human Body Introduction: I Sing the Body Electric 01. The Age of Wonder • The Dawn of Understanding • Great Balls of Fire • A Jarring Shock • Nine Lords a-Leaping • Snatching Lightning from the Sky • Bolts from the Blue • Thunderstruck • The Frog’s Dancing Master • Power to the People • Clash of the Titans • The ‘Mad’ Scientists • The Age of Wonder 02. Molecular Pores • The Holy Trinity • Poles Apart • The Building Bloc 2019.06.06–2019.06.20 Contents Ashcroft F (2012) (14:08) Spark of Life, The - Electricity in the Human Body Introduction: I Sing the Body Electric 01. The Age of Wonder • The Dawn of Understanding • Great Balls of Fire • A Jarring Shock • Nine Lords a-Leaping • Snatching Lightning from the Sky • Bolts from the Blue • Thunderstruck • The Frog’s Dancing Master • Power to the People • Clash of the Titans • The ‘Mad’ Scientists • The Age of Wonder 02. Molecular Pores • The Holy Trinity • Poles Apart • The Building Blocks of Life • The Precious Bodily Fluids • Border Control • An Electrochemical Battle for Potassium • Suck it and See • A Genetic Toolkit • The Needle’s Eye • An Open and Shut Case 03. Acting on Impulse • Wiring the Body • Acting on Impulse • Listening to Nerves Talk • Chance and Good Fortune • Taming the Axon • Calculated Progress • The Scramble for Squid • Fire! • Terrible Stuff • Red Tides and Suicide Potions • The Queen of Poisons • Sodium Rules 04. Mind the Gap • A Nobel Dream • Hitler’s Gift • The War of Soups and Sparks • Mind the Gap • All Docked Up and Ready to Go • Poison Darts • Nerve Gas • The Deadly Calabar Bean • Riding the Lightning • Leaping the Synaptic Gap 05. Muscling in on the Action • Wiring our Muscles • Impressive: A Trojan Horse • Scared Stiff • Goats Show the Way • Excitation–Contraction Coupling • Shiver My Timbers 06. Les Poissons Trembleurs • What a Stunner! • A Shocking Use of Muscle Power • Throwing the Switch • Zapped! • Why Does the Torpedo Not Shock Itself? • Shark Attack! • Electrosensory Perception • Hunting in the Dark • Finding One’s Way • Speaking in Sparks 07. The Heart of the Matter • The Beat Goes On • The Electrocardiogram • Sick at Heart • Restoring the Rhythm • Packer Whackers • To Hell and Back • The Electric Heart • Frightened to Death • The Tale of Terfenidine • My Heart Goes Pit-a-pat • Be Still, my Heart • A Racing Heart • The Silent Killer • The Virtual Heart 08. Life and Death • Turbo-charged Sperm • Raising the Barriers • Drawing Life from Death • Piling on the Pressure • A Salty Tale • The Cell’s Plumbing System • Lethal Agents • Battling Bugs • Cell Suicide • A Time to Live, a Time to Die • Blighted Harvest • Green Electricity • Life in the Slow Lane 09. The Doors of Perception • Eye Spy • Photodetection • Seeing in the Dark • Seeing Red • Through a Lens, Darkly • Extraordinary Facts Relating to the Vision of Colours • Hear, Hear! • Making Waves • Picking up Good Vibrations • Dancing Hair Cells • The Song of the Ear • Living Under a Deaf Sentence • Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow • A Matter of Taste • Making Sense of Scents • The King of Fruits • Touched • Some Like it Hot • Such a Pain • What a Relief • The Sensational Brain 10. All Wired Up • The Little Grey Cells • Seeing Single Cells • Taking the Brain Apart • All Fired Up and Ready to Go • Brain Waves • Watching the Brain at Work • How the Brain Sees • Pay Attention Now! • The Gift of Coloured Hearing • Migraine • The Balance of Power • On the Horns of a Dilemma • Too Much of a Good Thing • Scared Stiff • ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ • Brain Storms • Wiring the Brain 11. Mind Matters • What a Pleasure • Hooked • Love, Love Me Do • The (Un)Happiness Hormone • The Art of Memory • Remembrance of Things Past • Memories are Made of This • Shedding Light on Behaviour • To Sleep, Perchance to Dream • The God of Dreams • Knockout Drops • Who Am I? 12. Shocking Treatment • Electricity Made Plain and Useful • The Prince of Electrical Joy • The Tingle Factor • A Shock to the System • A Shocking End • The War of the Currents • Old Sparky • Phasers on Stun • Emotional Signals • Mind Control • Bionic Ears • Gripping Stuff • Forward to the Future Notes Further Reading Acknowledgements Credits Index

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter Aronson

    Three-and-a-half stars, rounded up. Not bad, although a bit dry at times, but it does vary considerably in the level of technical detail from when we are discussing the author's area of expertise (ion channels in living cells) and everything else. No doubt to him it all seemed to be at the same highly general level! But still, informative. It made a good companion to Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are. Three-and-a-half stars, rounded up. Not bad, although a bit dry at times, but it does vary considerably in the level of technical detail from when we are discussing the author's area of expertise (ion channels in living cells) and everything else. No doubt to him it all seemed to be at the same highly general level! But still, informative. It made a good companion to Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are.

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