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"Beautifully written, eloquently reasoned…Mr. Buonomano takes us off and running on an edifying scientific journey." —Carol Tavris, Wall Street Journal
In Your Brain Is a Time Machine, leading neuroscientist Dean Buonomano embarks on an "immensely engaging" exploration of how time works inside the brain (Barbara Kiser, Nature). The human brain, he argues, is a complex system that not only tells time, but creates it; it constructs our sense of chronological movement and enables "mental time travel"—simulations of future and past events. These functions are essential not only to our daily lives but to the evolution of the human race: without the ability to anticipate the future, mankind would never have crafted tools or invented agriculture. This virtuosic work of popular science will lead you to a revelation as strange as it is true: your brain is, at its core, a time machine.
Buonomano (Brain Bugs), a neuroscientist and professor at UCLA, explores how our brains shape our perception of time, as well as how time itself has shaped our brains. Evolved for optimizing our survival, our brains mark the passage of time and remember the past, using that knowledge to predict the future. For example, Buonomano notes that upon hearing a list, a person will assume that the items in it have occurred in the same order in which they were listed. How our brains process language is dependent on how they process patterns in time. A person's internal, circadian clock is fueled by biology through a neurological "feedback loop" that is stabilized by chaotically shifting signals in the brain. For a neurologist, this is all pretty common knowledge. Things get really intriguing for readers when Buonomano looks at how our sense of time fits into our comprehension of spacetime, Einsteinian relativity, and the nature of the physical universe. Buonomano covers a lot of territory, but each section is vividly written and accessible, and he treats the most complex topics with refreshing clarity. Readers looking for a thoughtful and provocative exploration of time will find this a worthwhile resource.