Locked in the silence and darkness of your skull, your brain fashions the rich narratives of your reality and your identity. Join renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman for a journey into the questions at the mysterious heart of our existence. What is reality? Who are “you”? How do you make decisions? Why does your brain need other people? How is technology poised to change what it means to be human? In the course of his investigations, Eagleman guides us through the world of extreme sports, criminal justice, facial expressions, genocide, brain surgery, gut feelings, robotics, and the search for immortality. Strap in for a whistle-stop tour into the inner cosmos. In the infinitely dense tangle of billions of brain cells and their trillions of connections, something emerges that you might not have expected to see in there: you.
This is the story of how your life shapes your brain, and how your brain shapes your life.
(A companion to the six-part PBS series. Color illustrations throughout.)
Neuroscientist and novelist Eagleman (Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain) reports on many big, recent neuroscience developments in this deceptively simple look at the universe's most complex known object: the human brain. Much of Eagleman's work covers scientists' ever-increasing appreciation of human brain plasticity. He addresses how brains rewire themselves in response to practice and discusses devices that help the brain regain damaged functions such as vision and hearing. Eagleman also shows how new technologies have revealed the reach and limits of human empathy, noting that seeing others in physical pain lights up the same neurons activated by experiencing physical pain directly though they light up less brightly when the observed victims are from a different social group. Those same brain areas even light up in response to emotional rejection. Remarking that human brains are essentially "peripheral plug-and-play devices," Eagleman shows that no matter what sort of data comes in, "the brain figures out what to do with it." And he effectively unveils the stunning degree to which "we can now hack our own hardware" in order to understand, and better, ourselves. This is a straightforward, stimulating companion book to the PBS series on the subject. Illus.