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Publisher's Summary

In 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room strapped to a bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records - from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory - reported psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four-year-old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.
Susannah’s astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. Weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia. Over one million dollars worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, until the celebrated neurologist, Dr. Souhel Najjar, joined her team. With the use of a simple - yet ingenious - test, he was able to make a lifesaving diagnosis - revealing a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain.
With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.
©2012 Original material © 2012 Susannah Cahalan. Recorded by arrangement with Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (P)2012 (p) 2012 HighBridge Company
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Critic Reviews

"Engrossing.... Unquestionably, an important book on both a human and a medical level. Cahalan’s elegantly-written memoir of her dramatic descent into madness opens up discussion of the cutting-edge neuroscience behind a disease that may affect thousands of people around the world, and it offers powerful insight into the subjective workings of our minds." (Mehmet Oz, MD, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center)
" Brain on Fire reads like a scientific thriller, but with a profound and moving philosophy at its heart." (David B. Agus, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Engineering, University of Southern California, and author of The End of Illness)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Brian Quaranta on 01-07-14

For those interested in neurology & psychology

This is a well-written and interesting memoir by a young woman who suffered through a period of time in which she experienced a form of "madness." Since she doesn't give away the particular disease in the title, I won't give a spoiler here; I have some background in the relevant fields and did not expect the answer. Her look back at this time in her life is thoughtful, and I found her ability to explain her medical condition and its details to be friendly to a general reader but not condescending. In general, the prose reads easily and well. I suspect that this book will be (has been) a very useful vehicle for spreading information about her illness, and will do considerable good. Glad to learn that she has recovered well and wish her the best. The narrator did a fine job of capturing the author's various moods and did some interpretation of the family members' voices as well.

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92 of 94 people found this review helpful


By Pearl Glacier on 03-09-13

Enter into a psychotic episode...

I will not seek to give away things that would make listening to this less suspenseful, but rather focus on reasons for listening to this book. Susannah Cahalan tells the very personal and insightful story of her flight into psychosis. Her authorship allows the reader to contemplate what it might be like to become mad, and I believe increase ones compassion for those who also suffer from mental illness. Her investigation into the aftermath also details the emotions that her family felt- something that rounds out her story and at times brought tears to my eyes. The love extended around her I believe brought her through the journey with the ability to write this narrative. The stigma of being mentally ill is overcome by her writing a very detailed account of her journey, which I salute her for! The book also reflects upon the physiological basis of psychosis. Critically, I think that she still stigmatizes the mental hospital although rightly it was not the place that would have been most healing for her. I found her episode similar to what many manic patients I have known experience, as afterwards their episode is shrouded in partial memory which she overcomes by video that was taken and accounts of her loved ones. Her story should challenge doctors to continue investigating when a combination of symptoms don't make complete sense. Her story should allow one more empathy when we encounter those who are suffering with such a mind bending illness.

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62 of 64 people found this review helpful

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