Hi there, brain

I recently finished reading Welcome to Your Brain by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, and I’m recommending it here.My recommendation—which has one of those now-popular long subtitles:”Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Otgher Puzzles of Everyday Life”—is not predicated on the depth of insight that it offers nor on the details of scientific work that it presents. Rather, I recommend this book because it is an accessible and scientifically faithful treatment of many popular topics about the relationships between brain function and human behavior.

Ms. Aamodt and Mr. Wang, each of whom earned a Ph.D. in neurosceince, politely and gently pop a few bubbles in their treatment of human thinking. There is wit and, indeed, wisdom in the text. Not only do they know what they are presenting, but they present the content in an eminently readable way. Each chapter, which can pretty much stand on its own, includes boxed material that pithily presents special, related content on topics aobut which intelligent lay readers would wonder: Whether cramming for an exam is sensible; whether fissures or folds in the brain provide an index for intelligence; how to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and what to do about it. Most of these features are arranged in an orderly array (pratical tips, myths, informative facts) , and those that do not fit the system are still sensible additions to the book.

In my view, Ms. Aamodt and Mr. Wang fail to give sufficient emphasis to the effects of repetition and conditioning, but to their credit they also did not promote the pop-psych reverence for mysterious munchkins and homunculi as drivers in our lives. Instead, they provided a grounded and accessible introduction to neuroscience that, if I ran the zoo, would be required reading for lots of undergraduates as well as most sentient adults. It’s worth it.

ISBN 13: 978-1-59691-283-0

For those who’re wondering why Sam Wang’s name sounds familiar, I was recommending his Web site about analysis of election polling data during the last electoral cycle. See his election site. See, also, the blog Welcome to Your Brain.

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Filed under Amusements, Science, Skepticism, Thanks for reading, What I'm reading

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