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'A Molecule Away from Madness' on Thursday's Access Utah

A college student cannot remember if she has eaten breakfast. By dinner, she is strapped to a hospital bed, convinced she is battling zombies. A man planning to propose marriage instead becomes violently enraged, gripped by body spasms so severe that he nearly bites off his own tongue. One after another, poor farmers in South Carolina drop dead from a mysterious epidemic of dementia. These are some of the true stories told by neurologistSara Manning Peskin in her bookA Molecule Away from Madness: Tales of the Hijacked Brain. She says that our brains are the most complex machines known to humankind, but they have an Achilles heel: the very molecules that allow us to exist can also sabotage our minds. In the book, she also tells us about the sometimes outlandish, often criticized and forever devoted scientists who work to solve these mysteries and find cures.

Sara Manning Peskin is an assistant professor of clinical neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.