guest review and response illustration by Northwestern medical student Ivy Huang
Reading Neurocomic is like embarking on a fantastical adventure akin to that of Alice in Wonderland or The Phantom Tollbooth but somehow finding yourself armed with scientific knowledge in the end. In Neurocomic, Drs. Matteo Farinella and Hana Ros chronicle the journey of a man who inexplicably finds himself lost in a brain, desperately seeking for an exit. Throughout the man’s travels, he encounters friends, foes, and even pioneering neuroscientists who teach him about their momentous and often Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the dynamic field of neuroscience.
In addition to serving as both an exciting journey and a didactic tool for anyone even remotely interested in how the brain functions, Neurocomic is an artistic wonder. From just the cover, you immediately see how careful and methodical Dr. Farinella was with his artwork in order to express depth and structure. The pages that follow only confirm that impression—each intricately inked page exemplifies the attentiveness put into the piece in order to convey scientific ideas to a general audience. Dr. Ros stated that, “Having a fun story or an adventure to hold everything together, you’re more likely to engage with an audience than if you just show them raw data or get them to read papers…” and I think that most would agree. By employing metaphors—for example, illustrating a record-keeping seahorse to represent the memory center of the brain, the hippocampus (Latin for “seahorse”)—the authors are able to communicate scientific ideas that can be easily retained and shared.
What was most exciting for me was that although I had studied neurobiology in college, I still found myself learning new concepts and remembering those that I had forgotten. To every person, including the most renowned neuroscientists in the world, the brain is still truly an enigma. As neuroscientists often joke, “Hundreds of years of research have doubled our knowledge of the how the brain works to 2%!” While so much is still unknown about the brain, Neurocomic does a fantastic job of synthesizing centuries of research into one incredible journey.