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A pioneering neuroscientist argues that we are more than our brains
To many, the brain is the seat of personal identity and autonomy. But the way we talk about the brain is often rooted more in mystical conceptions of the soul than in scientific fact. This blinds us to the physical realities of mental function. We ignore bodily influences on our psychology, from chemicals in the blood to bacteria in the gut, and overlook the ways that the environment affects our behavior, via factors varying from subconscious sights and sounds to the weather. As a result, we alternately overestimate our capacity for free will or equate brains to inorganic machines like computers. But a brain is neither a soul nor an electrical network: It is a bodily organ, and it cannot be separated from its surroundings. Our selves aren't just inside our heads - they're spread throughout our bodies and beyond. Only once we come to terms with this can we grasp the true nature of our humanity.
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"This philosophical puzzle has been posed, in various forms, for centuries and is one of the starting points for Alan Jasanoff's elegant and spirited attack on what he calls our 'cerebral mystique'.... A lucid primer on current brain science that takes the form of a passionate warning about its limitations." (Wall Street Journal)
"The Biological Mind is chock-full of fun facts that entertain. And best of all, it makes you think. I found myself debating with Jasanoff in my head as I read - surely a sign of a worthy book." (New York Times Book Review)
"In this powerful treatise, neurological engineer Alan Jasanoff issues a corrective to the 'cerebral mystique.'" (Nature)