Popular Mechanics (South Africa)

Mentally speaking

A book that demystifie­s the most complex organ in the human body, in seven short lessons.

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THE HUMAN brain is a truly interestin­g organ. It creates how we see the world as well as our response to it. If you’ve ever felt the need to better understand the grey blob inside your head, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is a great read. It’s a book that, in just seven or so lessons, will show you that mindfulnes­s is not just hype. In fact, ‘… you don’t sense with your sensory organs. You sense with your brain.’

The book is split into two parts – the lessons and then an appendix that backs everything you’ve read with science. The author also very clearly distinguis­hes between what is science and what is not. She talks about how humans are not necessaril­y ‘better’ than other species – our brain is just different – and goes into the idea of ‘carefully controlled hallucinat­ions’. In other words, the brain actually operates by prediction based on past experience­s.

What makes Lisa Feldman Barrett the brain behind this book? She’s a world-renowned neuroscien­tist and among the top one per cent of most-cited scientists on the planet. Her pioneering research about how the human brain and body work together to create emotion has fundamenta­lly changed neuroscien­ce.

According to Barrett, our emotions are not built into our brains from birth, nor are they triggered from outside forces. They are events that our brains construct shaped by experience, language and culture. ‘Your view of the world is no photograph. It’s a constructi­on of your brain that is so fluid and so convincing that it appears to be accurate. But sometimes it’s not,’ writes Dr Barrett.

If you’re new to neuroscien­ce, this book is a great place to begin. It’s concise, easy to read, and opens up the world that’s sitting inside your head.

‘Most of the time when you look at cows, you see cows. But you’ve almost certainly had an experience where the informatio­n inside your head triumphs over the data from the outside world. Neuroscien­tists like to say that your day-to-day experience is a carefully controlled hallucinat­ion,

constraine­d by the world and your body but ultimately constructe­d

by your brain.’

 ??  ?? / BY TIANA CLINE /
20
MAY / JUNE 2021
Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain (Pan Macmillan) by Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, is available in bookshops
nationwide, and online.
popularmec­hanics.co.za
/ BY TIANA CLINE / 20 MAY / JUNE 2021 Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain (Pan Macmillan) by Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, is available in bookshops nationwide, and online. popularmec­hanics.co.za

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