“It’s all in your head” isn’t something a chronically depressed person likes to hear. In the age of Prozac, when adjusting your serotonin level is as normal as checking the oil in your car, it seems unhelpful to suggest that someone might think their way into – or out of – a disease of the mind.
Gary Greenberg opens his new history of depression with a riveting tale of scientific ingenuity. A young, unknown marine biologist with an interest in mussels happens to discover the neurotransmitter serotonin and helps spur the antidepressant revolution. Lest we get too excited, though, Greenberg deflates our hopes just a few pages in. Great science stories involve chance discoveries that change our everyday lives, he says—but this is not the kind of story he is going to tell.