Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Alex Korb’s The Upward Spiral

Posted on November 7, 2017

Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2015, 225 pp.

Review by Ted Alston, facilitator

Bad feelings and bad habits fly together, and evasive maneuvers for one may serve for both. Accordingly, students of SMART Recovery may enjoy this book that addresses depression. Alex Korb, PhD, is an expert on neurotransmission, but he presents a model permitting self-management and and self-empowerment to have roles in mental health. In this model. a prescriber might help someone with a medication molecule that modulates neurotransmission, but readers have the power to choose other reasonable tactics that are non-pharmacological but have neurotransmission aspects.

Korb puts forth the important and attractive concept that neuroscience does not doom anyone to depression or addiction, nor to various other conditions with labels. He emphasizes that we all have pretty much the same instrument of thought and behavior. Whatever genetic or experiential differences may be, the troubled brain is usually out of tune rather than defective. Korb has a gift for analogy, and I do not want to spoil the encounters of his readers with those gems, but I will mention one. I liked when he said, “There’s nothing wrong with your brain, just like there’s nothing wrong with the air in Oklahoma–despite the devastating tornados.” This excerpted quote might seem inscrutable, but Korb’s full argument is easy to follow.

Korb offers much advice that is in line with the philosophies of SMART tools. For instance, a section of Chapter 2 is subtitled “The ABCs of Anxiety.” The Korb ABC is different from that of Albert Ellis, but it rhymes. One could delete all of the neuroscience from the Korb book and be left with a practical and reasonable pamphlet collating many SMART concepts. However, Korb offers a lot more than that. His every point includes a rationale based on what is known about neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. The book is intended for a broad audience, so the science depth is limited. However, the work is a superb introduction to neuroscience. Even a professional neuroscientist might appreciate the book for Korb’s power of explication. Continue reading

The Bio-Psycho-Social Model Of Addiction

Posted on May 20, 2014

The Compass Of Pleasure
by David J. Linden
Michael Werner, SMART Recovery® Volunteer Coordinator, Wilmington, NC


CompassDr. Linden is a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and has provided us with an authoritative science-based understanding of addictions: The Compass Of Pleasure.

In past years many models of the causes of addictions have been proffered, but it is only in the past few years that the neuroscience has had new tools to probe how the mind works in real time. We have greatly increased our knowledge of addictions from the study of the neurochemistry and neural pathways of the brain. The body of knowledge to support a bio-psycho-social model of addictions has been greatly supported by the new evidence.

Evolution has given us reward circuits to help us to survive and reproduce. Addictions subvert this normally helpful process and grow stronger over time, as the reward circuits in the brain are high-jacked.  The Compass Of Pleasure explains this new complex understanding clearly, but without dumbing it down.

I highly recommend this book, in fact it is something I think is a “must read” for everyone in SMART interested in a scientific approach to addictions. It is the best book on the biology of addictions I have seen, with a balance of scientific thoroughness presented in a style that makes it accessible by anyone. It is clear, funny, evocative, intellectually stimulating, Continue reading