- ISBN13: 9780471243779
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How should we define happiness? How happy are we supposed to be? Or can we be? Does each of us have a genetically determined “normal” level of happiness? Will a new breed of drugs allow us to fine-tune our moods so that we are happy most of the time? If so, are there any dangers to this kind of long-term mood alteration?
Fascinating research in a range of fields is providing provocative answers to these and many more questions about what makes us happy and how we can control our moods. We are in the midst of a revolution in the understanding of how our brains work and the neural circuitry of our moods and general temperament. At the same time, we have entered a bold new age of pharmacology?the science of drugs?which is allowing drug-makers to craft molecules that are exquisitely tailored to produce desired mood-altering effects.
In a lively and stimulating narrative, acclaimed science writer Stephen Braun takes readers to the frontlines of discovery in these areas and explores how this “brave new world” of mood manipulation will impact our lives. Based on extensive interviews with scientists at the forefront of research, as well as the compelling stories of many individuals and their personal experiences, The Science of Happiness presents an accessible, engaging, and balanced account of what we need to know as we enter this new era.
Braun introduces us to the scientists and companies who are racing to create the next generation of Prozac-like drugs, exploring the controversy surrounding so-called “designer drugs” and why such drugs are likely to be even more widely used.
He presents the idea of the happiness “set point”?the average level of happiness around which our daily mood fluctuates?and the respective roles played by our genes, our upbringing, and our daily life choices and experiences in determining our happiness profile. Introducing the provocative new field of Darwinian psychology, he explains why depression and anxiety can at times be necessary evils, providing important incentives for us to make changes in our lives that will improve our Darwinian fitness.
Braun also offers a stimulating and insightful consideration of how the alteration of our moods affects the “self” inside us. When we alter the mechanics of our moods, do we also fundamentally change ourselves? Or can we find a way to tailor our emotional lives while retaining what we consider to be the essence of who we are?
The Science of Happiness is an important and thoroughly engaging exploration of one of the most pressing issues facing society.
“Entertaining and Thorough.”?Philadelphia Enquirer
“Braun has a knack for interpreting the findings of medical researchers and applying them to daily life.”?Library Journal
“Braun manages to take abstract concepts and mold them into something highly readable. Science novices should find this book as enjoyable and well-written as those who have spent their lives working with biology or chemistry.”?Publishers WeeklyIs sadness a disease? Science writer Stephen Braun looks at the mystery of depression and the search for soma in The Science of Happiness. This brief, engaging, and personal view of mood and its influence on all aspects of our lives travels from drug company labs to Zen retreats in an effort to open up the black box containing temperament. His writing is powerfully charming, even while delving into deep philosophical issues and little-understood scientific theories. Is crippling depression related to “mere” unhappiness? Do good and bad moods provide evolutionary advantage? Does it make sense for us to use Prozac and all its friends and relations to enhance normal moods? Braun finds these questions important and fascinating, and the reader quickly comes to share these feelings. While neither as fawning as Listening to Prozac (one chapter is titled “Listening to Depression”) nor as shrill as the anti-Prozac Scientologists, he does find much of value on both sides of the argument. Likening his own use of various antidepressants to correction of mild visual impairment, he considers the possibility of better lives for most of us while still acknowledging Aldous Huxley’s dire predictions of worldwide drug slavery in Brave New World. What’ll it be? Nobody really knows, but Braun is feeling pretty good about it. –Rob Lightner
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