Our lives are shaped by our brain chemicals. They create our fondest memories, influence how we make decisions and who we love, and dictate basic survival drives such as hunger, fear and sleep.
Molecules like adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin may commonly crop up in headlines, but how much do we really know about how hormones and neurotransmitters control every aspect of our lives?
In Overloaded, author Ginny Smith explores exactly what these tiny molecules do. She digs into the history of brain chemistry, uncovering stories of scientists’ curiosity and persistence in the face of huge challenges, and discovers cutting-edge research that is revealing the unexpected connections between these crucial chemicals. Ginny also delves into what happens when we mess with the delicate balance of the chemicals in our brains, by taking medicinal or recreational drugs.
Along the way, she touches on some of the biggest questions in science, from free will to consciousness. Why do we remember emotional days better than humdrum ones? What makes it so hard to resist the smell of freshly baked pastries? How do we fall in love, and decide to spend our life with just one person? This mind-bending, eye-opening book answers all these questions and more, and takes readers on a journey through the remarkable world of neurotransmitters, the chemicals inside us all that touch every aspect of our lives.
Ginny Smith says: ‘I have always been curious, wanting to understand why and how the things around me work, but it wasn’t until university that I discovered my fascination with brain science. Here was a real challenge. An incredibly complex system, full of mysteries and unknowns, that needed breaking down, and understanding at the most fundamental level. And not only that, but it was something that affected us all, every day, and could answer perhaps the most fundamental question of all, why do we behave the way we do?
‘As I learned more, I began to realise that while the cells that make up our brains are important for this, it is the chemicals that bathe them, and allow them to communicate, that paint the complex details which colour every aspect of our daily lives. At the same time, I saw these chemicals begin to pop up in the media, with headlines like “serotonin is the happiness chemical” or “dopamine is addictive”. But these articles were rife with oversimplification and missed so much of the important nuance as to render the statements pointless.
‘So I decided the time was right for a book on the complex and intricate workings of your brain, and the molecules that control it. A book that explores that complexity and celebrates it, while keeping things comprehensible and cutting through the scientific jargon to explore the underlying concepts. While the book may not be able to provide all the answers to these fundamental questions (in many cases we just don’t know them yet), I hope that it sparks the reader’s curiosity, arms them against those trying to sell them ‘solutions’ based of over-simplified or junk science, and encourages them to find out more about their incredible brain.’