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VWN Product Reviews: Mapping the Mind

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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."

So this book starts, and so is accurate. With the increasing uptake of fMRI, ECoG, EEG, theta and alpha wave reading interface devices and event related potential signals, we are closer to understanding, unravelling and integrating the brain with machines, than we ever have been before. This tome, lavishly illustrated with diagrams, illustrations, and charts, guides the lay mind through the process of mapping the brain, structure by structure, sub junction by sub junction. It carefully explains why the brain is sub compartmentalised into specialised sections and how we know it is so.

It looks at case studies of detecting individual thoughts and feelings through interfacing with the brain and observing the naked mind.

Carter covers the functions of the brain more clearly than any other cognitive neuroscience book around, and since she doesn't push any specific theory, but simply reports what is known and what is not, her book is refreshingly objective in a field too often dominated by competing theories and arrogance.

Readers learn that sense-data from the eyes and ears go first to the thalamus; that falling in love may be caused by a single chemical called oxytocin; and that one thinker, Itzhak Fried, has hypothesised "syndrome E," a neurobiological disorder, in young men who carry out genocide.

Mixing established knowledge with new speculations, Carter takes care to tell readers which is which. She avoids specialised or technical language, so as to cover all the bases without excluding any unfamiliar yet intelligent mind.

 

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