Skip to main content

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery

Review

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery

After the melanoma cancer she was diagnosed with had spread to the frontal lobe of her brain, Barbara K. Lipska experienced the symptoms of mental illness. When effective immunotherapy treatments eventually eradicated the cancer, those symptoms went away, but she clearly remembers what it felt like when her mind was in the midst of an altered state. Because the symptoms of mental illness were linked to cancer in her brain, Lipska miraculously recovered once the cancer was gone, and now she wants to raise awareness by sharing what she recalls from that terrifying time.

Lipska has added insight into this topic as a neuroscientist. In THE NEUROSCIENTIST WHO LOST HER MIND, she applies her understanding of brain activity to study the effects mental illness had on her own brain. Now that she has recovered, she offers an even more incisive view into her own feelings and behavior during these times. When Lipska was ill, there were certain parts of her life she did not see objectively for many weeks. Lucky to be cancer-free and symptom-free, her bold, sharp observations informed by her neuroscience background make this book a worthy contribution to seeing mental illness for what it is, and how it feels.

"...both a compelling page-turner and an informative explanation of the symptoms of certain mental illnesses."

Lipska came out of this experience with a deepened compassion for people with mental illnesses, a desire to lessen the stigma of mental illness, and being a more informed neuroscientist than ever before. She is familiar with how not understanding the world around you can make one fearful. To have a supportive family was very fortunate for her, and important to her treatment and eventual recovery. At first she imputed her problems on people surrounding her because of the pain she was suffering. But by following the doctors’ recommendations for treatment, the fog was lifted --- and she has even returned to the hobbies she loves, along with her profession, over time.

THE NEUROSCIENTIST WHO LOST HER MIND is both a compelling page-turner and an informative explanation of the symptoms of certain mental illnesses. A piece of caution to readers is that what Lipska experienced does not typify the symptoms of all people with mental illnesses. She had schizophrenia-like impacts with added dementia. It is useful to mental health professionals to understand what it is like to experience a dissociated state --- resulting in this case from schizophrenia --- but for people who are unsure, this is not the case for all mental illnesses. Usually, medications would be used to manage the diagnosis, though Lipska was fortunate enough that her brain cancer was defeated, which caused the frontal lobe of her brain and thus her perception to return to average.

Lipska spent her life studying the mysteries at the border of the mind and brain, yet it was not until after she delved into it firsthand that her knowledge became wisdom. Within THE NEUROSCIENTIST WHO LOST HER MIND is the comprehension that when mental illness arrives, it can be out of one’s control, but through family encouragement, managing medications and one’s own inner strength, it is possible to have what it takes to come out stronger. Lipska continues her work as a neuroscientist, and now with the lifelong will to battle the stigma of mental illness.

Reviewed by John Bentlyewski on May 4, 2018

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery
by Barbara K. Lipska with Elaine McArdle

  • Publication Date: April 3, 2018
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 1328787303
  • ISBN-13: 9781328787309