From University of Washington professor Chantel Prat comes The Neuroscience of You, a rollicking adventure into the human brain that reveals the surprising truth about neuroscience, shifting our focus from what’s average to an understanding of how every brain is different, exactly why our quirks are important, and what this means for each of us.
With style and wit, Chantel Prat takes us on a tour of the meaningful ways that our brains are dissimilar from one another. Using real-world examples, along with take-them-yourself tests and quizzes, she shows you how to identify the strengths and weakness of your own brain, while learning what might be going on in the brains of those who are unlike you. With sections like “Focus,” “Navigate,” and “Connect,” The Neuroscience of You helps us see how brains that are engineered differently ultimately take diverse paths when it comes time to prioritize information, use what they’ve learned from experience, relate to other people, and so much more.
While other scientists focus on how “the” brain works “on average,” Prat argues that our obsession with commonalities has slowed our progress toward understanding the very things that make each of us unique and interesting. Her field-leading research, employing cutting-edge technology, reveals the truth: Complicated as it may be, no two brains are alike. And individual differences in brain functioning are as pervasive as they are fundamental to defining what “normal” looks like. Adages such as, “I’m not wired that way” intuitively point to the fact that the brains we’re piloting, educating, and parenting are wonderfully distinct, explaining a whole host of phenomena, from how easily a person might learn a second language in adulthood to whether someone feels curious or threatened when faced with new information. This book invites the reader to understand themselves and others by zooming in so close that we all look gray and squishy.
Prat, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, covers the nature of the human brain in her lively and informative debut. She argues that "every brain really is unique" and that nature and nurture combine to make people who they are. She describes the brain's two sides, for example, as remarkably lopsided, and breaks down the cocktail of neurotransmitters and how they work. There are also "assessments" for readers to examine how their brains have been influenced by their experiences, such as exercises to determine one's level of curiosity or if one is a "chooser" or an "avoider." While her basic thesis isn't unique, Prat goes a step further in exploring the implications of the nature-nurture connection: "many of our brains literally become shaped by the systemic biases of our society as we consume the versions of reality created by others. And these biases can influence the way we understand the world,"she writes. There are lots of funny footnotes as well as cutting-edge research on nematode nervous systems, for example and her informal tone goes a long way in making her subject both understandable and enjoyable. This work of popular science sets itself apart.