The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman “The Brain" is an excellent companion piece to the six-part PBS series of the same title. Neuroscientist and best-selling author David Eagleman, educates and fascinates the general public with a wonderful...
The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman
“The Brain" is an excellent companion piece to the six-part PBS series of the same title. Neuroscientist and best-selling author David Eagleman, educates and fascinates the general public with a wonderful popular-science examination of our brains. This captivating 224-page book includes the following six chapters: 1. Who am I?, 2. What is reality?, 3. Who’s in control?,4. How do I decide?, 5. Do I need you?, and 6. Who will we be?.
1. Popular science at its best. Accessible, enlightening and fun to read.
2. The fascinating topic of neuroscience in the masterful hands of David Eagleman.
3. Full of colorful illustrations that complement the excellent narrative.
4. Eagleman’s writing style is easy on the “brain”. His goal is to educate the general public and he succeeds.
5. Full of interesting facts spruced throughout the book. “As many as two million new connections, or synapses, are formed every second in an infant’s brain. By age two, a child has over one hundred trillion synapses, double the number an adult has.”
6. A good description of the teen’s brain. “Beyond social awkwardness and emotional hypersensitivity, the teen brain is set up to take risks.”
7. Goes over some of the keys components of the brain. “The scientists were particularly interested in a small area of the brain called the hippocampus – vital for memory, and, in particular, spatial memory.”
8. Includes interesting stories. The story of Charles Whitman is quite enlightening with major repercussions on a society that values evidence.
9. Describes how memories are formed. “Our past is not a faithful record. Instead it’s a reconstruction, and sometimes it can border on mythology. When we review our life memories, we should do so with the awareness that not all the details are accurate.”
10. Describes some of the tools of a neuroscientist. “One way to measure that is with electroencephalography (EEG), which captures a summary of billions of neurons firing by picking up weak electrical signals on the outside of the skull.”
11. Considers important philosophical questions. Does the idea of an immaterial soul reconcile with neuroscientific evidence? Find out.
12. Describes reality. “One way to measure that is with electroencephalography (EEG), which captures a summary of billions of neurons firing by picking up weak electrical signals on the outside of the skull.” “Everything you experience – every sight, sound, smell – rather than being a direct experience, is an electrochemical rendition in a dark theater.” “The slice of reality that we can see is limited by our biology.”
13. Describes consciousness. “…the conscious you is only the smallest part of the activity of your brain. Your actions, your beliefs and your biases are all driven by networks in your brain to which you have no conscious access.” “I think of consciousness as the CEO of a large sprawling corporation, with many thousands of subdivisions and departments all collaborating and interacting and competing in different ways.”
14. Describes how the brain decides. “It’s easy to think about the brain commanding the body from on high – but in fact the brain is in constant feedback with the body.”
15. An interesting look at willpower. “…willpower isn’t something that we just exercise – it’s something we deplete.”
16. A look at social neuroscience. “Our social skills are deeply rooted in our neural circuitry – and understanding this circuitry is the basis of a young field of study called social neuroscience.”
17. A fascinating look at Syndrome E and its repercussions. “Syndrome E is characterized by a diminished emotional reactivity, which allows repetitive acts of violence.” “Genocide is only possible when dehumanization happens on a massive scale, and the perfect tool for this job is propaganda.”
18. A look at the future of neuroscience. “The secret to understanding our success – and our future opportunity – is the brain’s tremendous ability to adjust, known as brain plasticity.”
19. Can consciousness be uploaded? Find out.
20. A helpful glossary of terms.
1. As expected, a book this succinct will leave some interesting neuroscientific topics on the table. The topic of free will gets shortchanged.
2. A book intended for the general public and a companion piece no less, will lack depth.
3. The eBook edition has some glitches, as an example, extra blank pages inserted.
4. Endnotes included but no formal bibliography.
In summary, this book exemplifies my love for science. Eagleman is a master of his craft and a skilled writer. He covers complex topics on the neuroscience with ease and provides the general public with an appetizer of knowledge. Neuroscience is a fascinating field in it is infancy and Eagleman successfully whets the public’s interest. I highly recommend it!
Further recommendations: “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain” by the same author, “How to Create a Mind” and “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzwell, “Who’s in Charge?” by Michael S. Gazzaniga, “The Human Brain Book” by Rita Carter, “The Tell-Tale Brain” by V.S. Ramachandran, “Hallucinations” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” by Oliver Sacks, “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel H. Pink, “In Search of Memory” by Eric R. Kandel, “Self Comes to Mind” by Antonio Damasio, and “The Mind” edited by John Brockman.