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Today a brain scan reveals our thoughts, moods, and memories as clearly as an X-ray reveals our bones. We can actually observe a person's brain registering a joke or experiencing a painful memory. Drawing on the latest imaging technology and the expertise of distinguished scientists, Rita Carter explores the geography of the human brain. Her writing is clear, accessible, witty, and the book's 150 illustrations—most in color—present an illustrated guide to that wondrous, coconut-sized, wrinkled gray mass we carry inside our heads.
Mapping the Mind charts the way human behavior and culture have been molded by the landscape of the brain. Carter shows how our personalities reflect the biological mechanisms underlying thought and emotion and how behavioral eccentricities may be traced to abnormalities in an individual brain. Obsessions and compulsions seem to be caused by a stuck neural switch in a region that monitors the environment for danger. Addictions stem from dysfunction in the brain's reward system. Even the sense of religious experience has been linked to activity in a certain brain region. The differences between men and women's brains, the question of a "gay brain," and conditions such as dyslexia, autism, and mania are also explored.
Looking inside the brain, writes Carter, we see that actions follow from our perceptions, which are due to brain activity dictated by a neuronal structure formed from the interplay between our genes and the environment. Without sidestepping the question of free will, Carter suggests that future generations will use our increasing knowledge of the brain to "enhance those mental qualities that give sweetness and meaning to our lives, and to eradicate those that are destructive."
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In the last decades of the 20th century, scientists have come to believe that the human brain is almost completely modular. Every bit of the brain does something in particular, and surprisingly specific abilities, memories, and responses are in localized areas. Journalist Rita Carter has drawn a map of what is known (and speculated) about the mind in a heavily illustrated field guide to the human brain.
Carter and her scientific editor, neuropsychologist Christopher Frith, cover the state of the mind in a reasonably accurate, accessible way. They emphasize topics that are likely to be of some practical interest--such as Alzheimer's or attention deficit disorder--but not so much as to give a distorted picture of the field.
Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book are the sidebars written by a variety of leading names in mind-brain science. Roger Penrose writes on computer minds, Francis Crick on consciousness, Steven Rose on memory, John Maynard Smith on social evolution, William Calvin on mosaic minds, Kay Redfield Jamison on creativity and bipolar disorders, and more. It's a stellar assortment, more than worth the price of admission--and there's a map of the mind on the cover, in case you misplace yours. --Mary Ellen CurtinAbout the Author:
Rita Carter is a medical writer for the Independent, New Scientist, Daily Mail, Telegraph, and other British publications and was twice awarded the Medical Journalists' Association prize for outstanding contributions to medical journalism. She lives in Ashford, England.
The general consultant for Mapping the Mind is Christopher Frith, Professor in Neuropsychology, Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology. The contributors include Simon Baron-Cohen, Francis Crick, Antonio Damasio, Uta Frith, Richard Gregory, Joseph LeDoux, Sir Roger Penrose, John Maynard Smith, Steven Rose and other leading researchers in brain science.
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