The Other Side of Normal: How Biology Is Providing the Clues to Unlock the Secrets of Normal and Abnormal Behavior
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In this enthralling work of popular science, respected Harvard psychiatrist Jordan Smoller addresses one of humankind’s most enduring and perplexing questions: What does it mean to be “normal?” In The Other Side of Normal, Smoller explores the biological component of normalcy, revealing the hidden side of our everyday behaviors—why we love what we love and fear what we fear. Other bestselling works of neurobiology and the mind have focused on mental illness and abnormal behaviors—like the Oliver Sacks classic, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat—but The Other Side of Normal is an eye-opening, thought-provoking, utterly fascinating and totally accessible exploration of the universals of human experience. It will change forever our understanding of who we are and what makes us that way.
I’ve gone ahead and turned on the seat belt light. Please remain in your seats. Flight attendants, please be seated.” Next thing you know, the plane is shaking and you feel a sudden queasiness as the plane seems to drop and then bounce on a pocket of air. For fifteen long seconds, it’s nothing but shaking and shuddering, dropping and bumping. And then, after what feels like hours, the plane is once again humming along. You’re alive. As you peel your fingers off the armrest, you feel your heart
attack had a threefold increased risk of heart attack or stroke and were nearly twice as likely to die from any cause. But when fear and anxiety go awry, they’re more likely to take a toll on our mental health. For most people, fear and anxiety won’t kill you, but for some, they can create a living hell. THE AGE OF ANXIETY THE PROBLEM OF DRAWING LINES BETWEEN NORMAL AND PATHOLOGIC fear and anxiety is not at all straightforward. More than perhaps any other psychiatric symptoms, fear and
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disorder of brain development and that genes play a major role. Studies of twins have shown that the heritability of autism (the contribution of genetic variations to risk in the population) may be as high as 80 to 90 percent, making it one of the most highly heritable medical conditions. It was known for some time that a number of rare classic genetic disorders—like Fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis—can cause autism in children who inherit the mutations that cause these diseases. But the
expect that disrupting these genes would have widespread and diverse effects on the brain. And that seems to be the case. One of the most striking findings to emerge from this genetic research is that many of the same CNVs that can cause autism can also cause other conditions where brain development has gone awry—including schizophrenia.65, 66 That may also explain the finding that the risk of both autism and schizophrenia is higher in children born to older parents.67, 68 It turns out that these