BOOKSHELF A few brain science books that have recently caught our eye
and how these advances are providing insight into some of humanity’s oldest and most profound inquiries. Using ten influential sci-fi movies as springboards to discuss the latest neuroscience, Quiroga examines Minority Report and free will, the illusion of reality and The Matrix , animal consciousness in Planet of the Apes , and machine intelligence in 2001 .
BY BRANDON BARRERA
Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, presents an intriguing and entertaining collection of short essays
Unique: The New Science of Human Individuality by David J. Linden (Basic Books) What makes you, you? Is your essence found purely in your genetic material? According to David J. Linden, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, our individuality is forged
on the brain. Filled with anecdotes and distilled neuroscience, it reads like a primer on human nature. In short order, Barrett dispels widely held misconceptions about our brains, setting the record straight with the help of recent research. If you’ve ever attributed some unsavory or impulsive behavior to your “lizard brain,” says Barrett, you’re guilty of referencing guff. Reptiles and non-human mammals have the same kinds of neurons that humans do. The differences that exist are not found in the building blocks (which are the same) but are due to the brains’ developmental stages running for different lengths of time in the different species. In other words, we humans possess differently evolved brains, not more evolved brains with additional parts. Further, our brains are not for thinking—our gray matter is for controlling the body’s needs, masterfully predicting energy requirements before they manifest. Barrett’s essays will familiarize you with the interplay between different brains, the relationship between emotion and reason, and the paradigm-altering power of our collective social reality. NeuroScience Fiction by Rodrigo Quian Quiroga (BenBella Books) a monotone voice and ruthless sense of self-preservation, HAL 9000, has continued to spark the public’s imagination since the film’s release in 1968, a time before the personal computer and self-driving cars. Such is often the case with science fiction, says Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Ph.D., Research Chair and director of the Center for Systems Neuroscience at the University of Leicester. Sci-fi movies such as Total Recall and The Matrix , he says, rely on cutting-edge breakthroughs in science and, in turn, inspires the discipline. Quiroga’s book explores how science is realizing what for decades only existed in the outlandish realms of futurist writers—implanting a memory, helping a paralyzed person to walk again, reading the mind— A memorable and endlessly scrutable work, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 : A Space Odyssey is regarded by many cinephiles as one of the medium’s crowning achievements. The film’s antagonist, a self-aware supercomputer with
in the regulation of gene expression, that vital space where experience and genes interact. Linden meticulously outlines the factors that make us singular while commendably keeping things approachable for lay readers. Eager to retire the reductive phrase “nature versus nurture,” Linden suggests understanding individuality as a matter of “heredity interacting with experience, filtered through the inherent randomness of development.” He explains that genes are built to be modified by the full scope of experience—the food you’ve eaten, diseases you’ve had, culture and technology—as early as in the womb. Carefully selected studies, personal stories, and historical accounts keep readers thoroughly engaged as Linden delves into sex and sexuality, gender, intelligence, and culinary proclivities.
Mayo Clinic on Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Edited by Jonathan Graff- Radford and Angela M. Lunde (Mayo Clinic Press) As people worldwide live longer, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the world’s population aged 60 years and older will reach two billion by 2050—that’s
more than double the 900 million from 2015. As age-related diseases, Alzheimer's, and other forms of dementia are projected to increase proportionately, making educational resources for caregivers and patients is all the more critical. Organized by neurologists from the Mayo Clinic, this seventh edition is a collection of recommendations for living well with dementia, the latest research on preventative methods, and the newest treatment options for the disease. The content is categorized thematically, inviting readers to engage with the sections most relevant to them and encouraging return visits as needs change. Full-color images of people, illustrations, and charts accompany the stories of people living with dementia and those who care for them, adding a crucial element missing from more clinical texts: humanity. l
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