Cerebrum Fall 2020

BOOKSHELF A few brain science books that have recently caught our eye

Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever- Changing Brain by David Eagleman (Penguin Random House) The brain is a dynamic structure, changing in response to both internal and external factors. Neuroscience refers to this as neuroplasticity—in essence, experience sculpts our “plastic” neural landscape, and


Mind, Consciousness, and Well-Being Edited by Daniel J. Siegel and Marion F. Solomon (W. W. Norton)

our brains retain these changes in a continuous process with no end. It is because of this ever-present flux that David Eagleman, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience at Stanford University and host of the acclaimed television series The Brain , shies away from relying on the term "plastic" and its association with a final, landfill-bound end product. Instead, Eagleman introduces a new concept: livewired. This framework, Eagleman writes, recognizes the brain as the extraordinary self-configuring organ it is. Remove a limb and the corresponding cortical region in the brain will cede ground to its neighbors, essentially reorganizing the brain map to reflect the new, current form of the body. Introduce a new data stream, one captured and converted into electrical signals by novel sensors, and the brain will figure out how to use the data. Eagleman’s book lays out these livewiring principles, illustrating why he considers the concept to be “quite possibly the most gorgeous phenomenon in biology.”

Discovering and implementing strategies to cultivate your personal and professional well-being is invaluable, especially during tumultuous times. This latest volume in the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology invites readers to join scientists, clinicians, and mindfulness instructors in conversation—the transcribed format of the book is meant to preserve the flow of engagement, exercises, and human moments found in the live sessions. Across 15 presentations, experts with backgrounds in psychology, neuroscience, neurobiology, law, and physics share their perspectives on the science of self-compassion; the value of positive emotions and social connections in nurturing a naturally antidepressant brain; social justice and interconnectedness; bridging science and spirituality with physics and yoga; what Alzheimer’s can teach us about the mind and who we are; and many other thought-provoking reflections. Anyone interested in wellness, mental training, and consciousness will find this compilation to be a valuable resource.

Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality by Dawson Church (Hay House) When scientific principles brush against the metaphysical, it is possible to become disoriented—where once you stood on solid ground, you may find yourself wading out into the ethereal. It is this space, where

fMRI by Peter A. Bandettini (MIT Press) With close to three decades of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) research shaping his perspective, Peter A. Bandettini, Ph.D., leans on his experience to discuss the history and fundamental concepts of fMRI—the non-invasive and high-sensitivity technique for measuring brain

science probes the limits of knowledge, at times blurring into the fantastical, that author Dawson Church, Ph.D., chooses to explore. A self-described mystic and scientific researcher, Church’s interests lie in the power of thought and discovering the limits of “intention.” Church’s book addresses the research into the mind’s influences on the objective, external world. Neuroplasticity, emotional regulation, and what is known about the different frequencies of brainwaves are presented in ways that empower readers to benefit from potential health and therapeutic qualities associated with each. To be sure, the book concerns itself with much of the metaphysical and spiritual realms as well. While all are presented with references, many claims merit further investigation, such as the ability to alter a radioactive substance’s rate of decay through intent alone. Nevertheless, the curious will find much to consider and may find a new appreciation of the power of their mind. l

activity that has helped reshape brain science over the last two decades. Bandettini, chief of the section on functional imaging and director of the Functional MRI Facility at the National Institute of Mental Health, infuses fMRI with insights that are unique to pioneers of the field like himself. The book includes a brief primer of the brain imaging landscape and mostly concerns itself with fMRI methods: hardware and acquisition, brain activation experiments, and the crucial processing of data. One chapter is dedicated to fMRI controversies and challenges, chronologically cataloging more than 20 scientific debates that consider the various views and issues which inevitably surface. fMRI is a worthy companion for, as Bandettini puts it, the “curious layperson” and the “sophisticated developer and user.”

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