Cover image for The biological mind : how brain, body, and environment collaborate to make us who we are
The biological mind : how brain, body, and environment collaborate to make us who we are
Jasanoff, Alan, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Basic Books, 2018.
Physical Description:
vii, 292 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
"The brain sometimes seems like a physical embodiment of the soul--a mysterious seat of our personality, intellect, and emotions. The roots of this notion run deep in our culture: From ancient philosophical concepts to modern psychological analysis, we've been idealizing the brain's role for eons. But the soul-like qualities of the brain are often more myth than fact, and in emphasizing them, we limit our understanding of ourselves. As neurobiologist Alan Jasanoff reveals in [this book], the brain is an organ much like other organs, and it cannot be separated from the body of its surroundings. We don't live in a sensory deprivation chamber; our experience of the world is inextricably linked to our interactions with it, which is why blue colors make us happier and higher temperatures make us hot-tempered. And it's not just our external environment that matters--even microbes in our intestines affect our psychology. When we focus solely on the brain to explain our behavior, we overlook external factors than can lead to mental illness. We overestimate our ability to act with free will and judge people in court based on shoddy neuroscience. It's time to put the brain back into its worldly context. [This book] shows us that only by appreciating how brain, body, and environment collaborate will we be able to grasp the true nature of our humanity."--Jacket.

"To a 21st century human, the brain is the seat of all our powers. But the hyperbolic way we talk about the brain is more informed by a mystical conception of what the soul is than by scientific fact. From the confines of ancient philosophy to the duality inherent to Christianity, from the mysterious depths of psychoanalysis to today's tendency to compare the brain to a computer, our belief in a mind distinct from the body has tainted the way we think about gray matter (which, it turns out, is not even gray!). As the director of the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering reveals in The Biological Mind, this "cerebral mystique" has blinded us to the realities of the human body. We ignore the role of our body's chemistry and of our environment on our behavior, focusing solely on the brain-and thus dismiss crucial non-brain based cures. We overestimate the value of free will and place undue responsibility on individuals-which leads us to rely on shoddy neuroscience to convict people in court. And we believe that the brain is replicable, if only we recreate its networks correctly-and take the analogy so far as to affirm the human brain could exist in a computer. But a brain is not a soul: it is an organ and it cannot be separated from the body and its surroundings. Our brains do not act in isolation. For instance, the brain is influenced by the ambient shade of the light -- bluer colors make us happier. The climate also plays a role - higher temperatures make us more hot-tempered. The gut microbiome affects not only digestive functions but also psychological states like anxiety, stress, and depression. Whatever happens in our brain is the product of our physiology and environment, our history, and our society"--
Part I: The cerebral mystique. Eating the brain ; Humor me ; It's complicated ; Scanning for Godot ; Thinking, outside the box ; No brain is an island -- Part II: The importance of being biological. Insiders and outsiders ; Beyond the broken brain ; Neurotechnology unbound ; What it's like to be in a vat.
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