Two books and one TV series explore the oddities of the human mind.
Extraordinarily complex as the human brain may be, it is far from perfect. Human memory is unreliable; we are easily swayed by advertisements; and we tend to hold fast to superstitions. In his new book Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives (W. W. Norton, 2011), neuroscientist Dean Buonomano explores these neural “bugs,” delving into studies that reveal why the brain may have developed some of its quirks.
Is it possible to directly observe the brain at work? In a thought-provoking read, psychologists Paolo Legrenzi and Carlo Umilta argue that the public has become unduly obsessed with brain imaging. Neuromania: On the Limits of Brain Science (Oxford University Press, 2011) debunks the budding idea that a study or news report accompanied by a colorful brain image is more reliable than research that does not use flashy functional MRI technology.
Have you ever been curious to see the world through a newborn’s eyes? Now you can come close. The PBS series The Secret Life of the Brain (with clips available online at www.pbs.org) takes viewers on a ride through the developing human brain, from birth to death. For instance, viewers will learn that only four weeks into gestation neurons are already forming at a rapid rate of 250,000 per minute and that our brains continue to produce new neurons even into our seventies.
This article was originally published with the title Roundup: Quirks and Quibbles.