Brains Feature

Can you trust your brain?

You’ve probably heard about the ancient Egyptian practice of preserving human organs in jars as part of a death ritual but throwing away the brain because they “didn’t think it was useful.” Our understanding of the brain’s function has taken time. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that neurons were discovered. New Scientist magazine’s new book The Brain: Everything You Need to Know says, “A complex ballet of electrical and chemical activity in the brain’s network of 86 billion neurons allows us to sense our surroundings, feel, taste and remember. This network is made up of a staggering 170,000 kilometres of nerve fiber. That’s almost half the distance from Earth to the moon.”

If you think that sounds impressive, just remember that that those complex networks does not mean that your eyes are a video camera and your memory is a computer chip retaining an imprint of everything that’s happened to you. What you see (or indeed perceive through any of your senses) is assembled for you in a way that is best suited to your survival (or perhaps reproduction). Your experience is in no way meant to be interpreted literally. You don’t even see your nose most of the time and it’s right smack in the center of your vision. Memory could be said to be unreliable. Sure, if you are expecting an exact replay of events, it’s extremely unreliable. But if you’re talking about your brain’s ability to protect your ego, emotions, and actions in the future by altering memories to best suit your needs, then the brain is doing a bang up job.

Check out these new books on brains to learn more…

The Brain: Everything You Need To Know by New Scientist

Join New Scientist magazine on a mind-expanding rollercoaster ride through intelligence, creativity, your unconscious and beyond. (October 2020)

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

From the author of How Emotions Are Made, a myth-busting primer on the brain in the tradition of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. (November 2020)

Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain by David Eagleman

“Delivers an intellectually exhilarating look at neuroplasticity . . . Eagleman’s skill as teacher, bold vision, and command of current research will make this superb work a curious reader’s delight.”Publishers Weekly, Starred Review (August 2020)

Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon: Practical Strategies for Peak Health and Performance by Rahul Jandial

With engrossing stories from the OR and the lab, a leading neurosurgeon and neuroscientist explores the cutting-edge science that can be applied to everyday life for peak performance, improved memory, enhanced creativity, and much more. (NEW IN PAPERBACK September 2020)

How Much Brain Do We Really Need? by Dr. Jennifer Barnett, Dr. Alexis Willett

How Much Brain Do We Really Need? challenges us to think differently about the brain. Rather than just concentrating on the many wonderful things it can do, this entertaining insight into the complexities and contradictions of the human brain asks whether in fact we can live satisfactorily without some of it. (October 2020)

On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done by David Badre

A revelatory look at how billions of neurons collectively translate abstract ideas into concrete plans, On Task offers an eye-opening investigation into the brain’s critical role in human behavior. (November 2020)

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