Popular Mechanics (South Africa)
A book that demystifies the most complex organ in the human body, in seven short lessons.
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.’