Right now, both your inner and outer worlds are abuzz with chatter among living cells of every possible kind—from those in your body and brain to those in the environment around you. From electrical alerts to chemical codes, the greatest secret of modern biology, hiding in plain sight, is that all of life’s activity boils down to one thing: conversation.

While cells are commonly considered the building block of living things, it is actually the communication between cells that brings us to life, controlling our bodies and brains, determining whether we are healthy or sick, and directly influencing how we think, feel, and behave.

In The Secret Language of Cells, doctor and neuroscientist Jon Lieff lets us listen in on these conversations, and reveals their significance for everything from mental health to cancer. He explains the surprising science of how very different cells—bacteria and brain cells, blood cells and viruses—all speak the same language. This overarching principle has been long overlooked because scientific journals use impenetrable jargon that makes it hard to be understood across disciplines, much less by the general public.

Lieff presents a fascinating and accessible look into cellular communication science—a groundbreaking and comprehensive exploration of this biological phenomenon. In these pages, discover the intriguing lives of cells as they ask questions, get answers, give feedback, gather information, call for each other, and make complex decisions. During infections, immune T-cells tell brain cells that we should “feel sick” and lie down. Cancer cells warn their community about immune and microbe attacks. Gut cells talk with microbes to determine which are friends and which are enemies, and microbes talk with each other and with much more complicated human cells in ways that determine which medicines work and which will fail.

With applications for immunity, chronic pain, weight loss, depression, cancer treatment, and virtually every aspect of health and biology, cellular communication is revolutionizing our understanding not just of disease, but of life itself. The Secret Language of Cells is required reading for anyone interested in following the conversation.


Jon Lieff, MD, brings to bear 40 years as a nationally recognized neuro-psychiatrist, during which he was president of a national medical subspecialty organization, founded a major scientific journal, and was the medical director for 25 years of a large network of psychiatric care for the elderly. He was a pioneer in several medical fields—geriatric psychiatry, brain injury, computer applications in psychiatry, and the integration of medicine, psychiatry, and neurology.

Starting with an interest in brain cell communication, Dr. Lieff found similar signaling among all cells in nature. Five years ago, he established his acclaimed and popular scientific website, Searching for the Mind, about the topic of cellular communication. With weekly posts, he reviewed and synthesized the latest scientific literature in neuroscience and cell biology.


  • Viruses- How they communicate to each other and the impact on our health
  • The elegant and magical world of cells – how their communication means everything to the state of our health
  • Viruses and how they talk to each other/cells
  • The Brain-Body Connection and the future of medicine
  • Gut Health – What is going on there and why does it matter?
  • How do cellular conversations factor into our immune systems, weight loss, and depression?


Lieff’s overview of cellular communication will fascinate those interested in new frontiers of neuroscience.
– Publishers Weekly

The Secret Language of Cells takes us on an exciting journey into a world where we can visualize elaborate conversations among immune cells, brain cells, gut cells, bacteria, and even viruses. Dr. Lieff gives a wealth of examples for his thesis that this cellular signaling is the basis of life. It is a must read for anyone seeking to understand modern biology and advanced medical science. It is equally important for those of us who wonder, as I do, how this ubiquitous information transfer in the form of cellular conversations might be related to the emergence of intelligence and consciousness
Ray Kurzweil, Inventor, author and futurist 

The Secret Language of Cells explains the complex ways that cells in the body communicate and presents a new paradigm for understanding health and disease. It also suggests new possibilities for treatment and for promoting healing.  I’m pleased that my former Harvard colleague, Jon Lieff, has written this important book.
– Andrew Weill, M.D. Author; Director, Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine; Professor University of Arizona College of Medicine 

Jon Lieff’s description of cellular communication is insightful, provocative, illuminating, and engaging and provides deep and novel observations into the remarkable symphony of how life happens. Mimicking the cellular world he describes, Dr. Lieff is the great communicator and muse of living things. An inspiring and informative read.
Ted Kaptchuk, Professsor of Medicine Harvard Medical School

As a storyteller, my imagination is sparked by the insights Dr. Lieff brings to our innermost world and the mysteries at the edge of our understanding. The Secret Language of Cells reveals how the micro world reflects the macro, alive with heroes and villains, shapeshifters and tricksters, vigilant guards and gullible bystanders, helpers that commit suicide for the common good and warriors that seize the day or collapse from exhaustion. Lieff’s fascinating exploration inspires awe for the astonishing dialogues and clarion calls at the heart of the intelligence within.
Antonia Felix, Ed.D., MFA, New York Times bestselling author