Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death – by Adrian Owen


Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death Hardcover by Adrian Owen

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Scribner (June 20 2017)

ISBN-13: 978-1501135200

Synopsis: In this startling and thought-provoking book, which will remind readers of works by Oliver Sacks and Atul Gawande, a world-renowned neuroscientist reveals his controversial, groundbreaking work with patients whose brains were previously thought vegetative or non-responsive but turn out—in up to 20 percent of cases—to be vibrantly alive, existing in the “Gray Zone.”

Into the Gray Zone takes readers to the edge of a dazzling, humbling frontier in our understanding of the brain: the so-called “gray zone” between full consciousness and brain death. People in this middle place have sustained traumatic brain injuries or are the victims of stroke or degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Many are oblivious to the outside world, and their doctors believe they are incapable of thought. But a sizeable number are experiencing something different: intact minds adrift deep within damaged brains and bodies. An expert in the field, Adrian Owen led a team that, in 2006, discovered this lost population and made medical history. Scientists, physicians, and philosophers have only just begun to grapple with the implications.

Following Owen’s journey of exciting medical discovery, Into the Gray Zone asks some tough and terrifying questions, such as: What is life like for these patients? What can their families and friends do to help them? What are the ethical implications for religious organizations, politicians, the Right to Die movement, and even insurers? And perhaps most intriguing of all: in defining what a life worth living is, are we too concerned with the physical and not giving enough emphasis to the power of thought? What, truly, defines a satisfying life?

This book is about the difference between a brain and a mind, a body and a person. It is about what these fascinating borderlands between life and death have taught us about being human.

* * *

This very scientific read is extremely enlightening about people who live in a vegetative state.  Adrian Owens was the leader of a team that in 2006 investigated and discovered ways to communicate with people who seemingly are unable to communicate. Following their investigation and studies, this book is both haunting and gripping as it explores how new medical discoveries are changing the lives of many everyday.

While I am not a huge science fan, I found this book easy to read (for the most part) as Owen’s takes the reader on his journey exploring the border between life and death. Owen’s makes sure to thoroughly explain technical terms and procedures to ensure that the everyday reader can follow – and he does this perfectly without over explaining. As I followed each milestone in their study, the book became more gripping and I felt more highly invested in Owen’s story.

This is a great read for science fans as well as people interested in the topic – but, I would not suggest this book to just anyone as it is very scientific and might be a little too “heavy” for some people. The implications of this study are gigantic and now it is documented by the leader of the study to exist for history.

Rating: 8/10

*I received this book from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review*

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