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272 of 278 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique book by a pioneer in the field
The author is a prominent researcher in neuroscience, specifically what has become "affective neuroscience." That is, the study of the neurological basis of emotions. Here, you will read about 6 distinctive brain patterns, or circuits, that underlie how people react to the world, in particular how people regulate their emotions. You won't read about the difference between...
Published on March 6, 2012 by Mark Wehrenberg

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198 of 213 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended Overall, but Have Some Issues
Let me start off by saying that overall I liked this book and felt I got some valuable insights on issues related to emotional psychology, brain science, and a wee bit on meditation. So I'm glad I bought and read this book. But the insights felt more subtle than big "aha"s and the supposed heart of the book--understanding our/the six core emotional styles--fell a bit flat...
Published on March 20, 2012 by Bill Gallagher


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272 of 278 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique book by a pioneer in the field, March 6, 2012
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This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
The author is a prominent researcher in neuroscience, specifically what has become "affective neuroscience." That is, the study of the neurological basis of emotions. Here, you will read about 6 distinctive brain patterns, or circuits, that underlie how people react to the world, in particular how people regulate their emotions. You won't read about the difference between brain patterns representing Joy vs. Pride vs. Amusement, or Sadness vs. Shame vs. Envy. Presumably these are higher level categorizations which don't have such clear brain signatures (yet?). Instead, the author describes these 6 brain circuits as the underpinnings of what he calls Emotional Style which govern the context and duration of emotions for different people, and which ultimately give rise to moods and personality.

The 6 categories of Emotional Style are:

- Resilience: How slowly or quickly you recover from adversity.

- Outlook: How long you are able to sustain positive emotion.

- Social Intuition: How adept you are at picking up social signals from the people around you.

- Self-Awareness: How well you perceive bodily feelings that reflect emotions.

- Sensitivity to Context: How good you are at regulating your emotional responses to take into account the context you find yourself in.

- Attention: How sharp and clear your focus is.

At first I was wary of this approach, as there are numerous classification systems for emotions that strike me as somewhat arbitrary. After a while though, it sunk in and I realized how fundamentally these functions affect the contours (ups and downs) and contexts of our emotional states, and how we perceive and react to our social world. It is also extremely interesting to understand the basis for these characteristics in terms of brain function, something which is rarely tackled in a satisfactory way. Sometimes he seems to paint with too broad of a brush, probably a reflection of how much has yet to be learned, but overall it is very illuminating stuff.

In addition to helping readers understand the workings of the brain, readers are encouraged by the author to evaluate their own particular Emotional Style and consider how they might change it. He discusses many ways that the extreme ends of certain emotional style categories give rise to serious difficulties in life for some people (depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, social ineptitude, etc). The plasticity of the brain is emphasized, and the author gives very specific suggestions of ways to change if the reader so desires. I don't want to give the impression that this is merely a "self-help" type of book, as that would seriously underestimate the content here.

A very significant contribution the author makes is his evaluation of the effects of meditation on the brain. Richard Davidson is perhaps the foremost researcher in the world investigating the connection between meditation and brain function, and has worked closely with the Dalai Lama to recruit experienced monk meditators for brain scans (fMRI & EEG), in addition to studying how novice meditators' brains change over shorter periods of time. I have read other books on meditation and the brain (Buddha's Brain, The Blissful Brain) and this book has the strongest scientific basis by far.

In the course of the book, the author describes numerous experiments throughout his career that gave rise to these findings. It was interesting to learn how these discoveries came about, and to consider the efficacy of his methods. In fact, a good deal of time is spent on the narrative of the author's career and research methods. This might be off-putting for some people, but I found it to be a good framework to understand the methods used for this research, and to learn of the author's personal trajectory towards studying positive emotion, the brain, and meditation, though sometimes the author seems to take a tad too much credit (or perhaps he really is that important).

I have no doubt there is a great deal more we don't know about emotion regulation, but the neural circuits described here will inevitably play a foundational role for what is discovered in the future.
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109 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Well Done and Helpful, March 6, 2012
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Book Fanatic (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
This is just a really good book. I recently read Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality and the two of them together provide an excellent view of emotions and your brain. They are very different though. Quirk is kind of quirky and all about mice and (wo)men. This book has a much more professional and serious tone. They both are valuable and useful.

This book traces the author's history in psychological and neuroscience research. At first that bugged me as it seemed to be all about him. Most of the research in this book is his own and/or that of his students. However, in the end I think that turned out to be a good thing both because he quite obviously is a preeminent expert in the field and he goes pretty deep into the implications of his own findings. In other words he knows what he is talking about and not just speculating about the meaning of someone else's work. In any case you see the history and the evidence in favor of the author's ideas build over time and he does an excellent job putting it all together. He definitely believes you can alter to some degree your emotional profile and he ends the book with suggestions for exercises on how do to that for any of the six dimensions he describes.

You will come away from reading this book with a much deeper understanding of the dimensions of your emotional style and their underlying neural correlates. This book is definitely for the general reader and while it is densely packed with information it is not overly technical or academic.

I highly recommend this to readers who are curious about the brain in general or emotions in particular.

I'm disappointed that this book does not have Amazon's "Search Inside" feature so I will include the contents below and hope that helps you get a better feel for its contents:

Introduction: A Scientific Quest

Chapter 1: One Brain Does Not Fit All

Chapter 2: The Discovery of Emotional Style

Chapter 3: Assessing Your Emotional Style

Chapter 4: The Brain Basis of Emotional Style

Chapter 5: How Emotional Style Develops

Chapter 6: The Mind-Brain-Body Connection, or How Emotional Style Influences Health

Chapter 7: Normal and Abnormal, and When "Different" Becomes Pathological

Chapter 8: The Plastic Brain

Chapter 9: Coming Out of the Closet

Chapter 10: The Monk in the Machine

Chapter 11: Rewired, or Neurally Inspired Exercises to Change Your Emotional Style
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198 of 213 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended Overall, but Have Some Issues, March 20, 2012
This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
Let me start off by saying that overall I liked this book and felt I got some valuable insights on issues related to emotional psychology, brain science, and a wee bit on meditation. So I'm glad I bought and read this book. But the insights felt more subtle than big "aha"s and the supposed heart of the book--understanding our/the six core emotional styles--fell a bit flat for me.

Maybe looking for "ahas" is a lot to ask of any book--and certainly I don't expect that of everything I read--but there wasn't enough payback in the overall reading pleasure of The Emotional Life of Your Brain to overcome some awkwardness and unrewarding parts to call this "must reading"--at least not for a general audience (for those interested in research on our emotions and the brain, you will definitely find it worthwhile).

Information Gained
I think the heart of my issues with this book were with the research of the six emotional styles. It's not that doubted the validity of what Davidson discovered, but the discoveries didn't feel that exactly translated into actionable behaviors. In small part, my problem was I didn't truly get the distinction of the difference between some of the styles. That is, we're told there are six emotional components that are crucial (or at least measurable) to how we react emotionally: Resilience, Outlook, Self-Awareness, Social Intuition, Context Sensitivity, and Attention. The differences between Resilience and Outlook seem pretty subtle and especially so for Social Intuition and Context Sensitivity (which is about relating to people in an appropriate way given the context). Yes, Davidson shows us the brain mechanisms for each of these are different--and one of the book's strengths is the clear way they explain what happens in the brain--but the effect and "remedies" to correct for emotional style deficiency weren't that different from one another.

The overall effect of the self-help sections of this book relating to emotional styles felt a bit lame. It was almost as if they didn't feel confident enough in the reader to trust the inherent interest in what Davidson's emotional research and felt compelled to try and add a self-help elements as a marketing tool.

The strongest parts of the book were the science writing and discoveries explained. Some of it I'd heard before, but Davidson's been a pioneer in the area of grounding the study of emotions in hard science and there are lots of good information on that account. Most important are the way he's proven emotions are critical to our brain's proper functioning and how he establishes a continuum of functioning to bring greater nuance and remedies to disorders such as autism, depression, and ADHD. This is where the book shines and is worthy of being considered important.

Writing Style
Call me nitpicky, but for a decent amount of the book I didn't enjoy the writing so much. I wonder if part of the problem is that it was a team effort and the ghost writer wasn't clearly in charge. Richard Davidson has written a number of books and is a clear writer, but he's doesn't have the je-ne-c'est-quoi of a top-notch magazine-quality writer that knows how to really draw you in. I presume Sharon Begley does (I haven't read her other work). And there are sections of the book that read really smoothly and are totally absorbing. But especially toward the beginning, the book is a bit clunky and in several places Davidson reveals a pride in his accomplishments that I found slightly embarrassing. For example on page 68 Davidson writes: "Wisconsin has a winning strategy for recruiting faculty, recruiting those whose star is still rising rather than going after full blown supernovas as a place like Harvard typically does." Davidson was recruited and taught at Wisconsin and a bit earlier had told us he was later recruited by Harvard; in other words, he let us know he is a supernova professor. It's not that he isn't a superstar professor/researcher and I truly believe humanity is better off for the valuable research he's done, but combined with some other horn-touting sprinkled through out the book, it was a bit distracting from the content. This was a minor issue and more toward the beginning. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, it sounds like Davidson struggled to get this book done and his agent got Begley onboard, making me wonder (after I finished it) if that might have accounted for the unevenness. Perhaps I'm just spoiled by the plethora of exquisitely written science books I've read in recent years.

Summing Up
Please don't take the criticism above as discouragement from reading The Emotional Life of the Brain; it does have value and if I hadn't read a lot on the topic, including other books that have cited Davidson's work elsewhere, I probably would have enjoyed it even more. Maybe my expectations were too high. My main discouragement would be around expectations for the self-help aspect of the book which didn't work for me, but if you're happy to read it for the science, then I think you'll be rewarded.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is your brain. This is your brain on emotions., May 4, 2012
This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
How does the emotional aspect of the brain REALLY work? If we knew that, we could control some of our impulses and feelings and perhaps do what we set out to do, experience life with more joy and stop worrying or being angry. So this book is a unique look at emotions from the actual physiology, chemistry and psychology of the brain in terms of science, not psychotherapy.

If you were to read this and combine it with a book on "Emotional IQ" such as [[asin:05538049 Emotional Intelligence]], it could be a breakthrough in living your life and accomplishing what you want to do more effectively.

So, what are some of the aspects of the "emotional life" of the brain, or let's say, the characteristics of a healthy emotional life? They are Resilience, Outlook, Social Intuition, Self-Awareness, Sensitivity to Context and Attention.

Let's look at each:

Resilience

We all take blows from life, I can attest to that. And lately, there has been a lot of natural adversity, look around, how many of your friends have lost jobs or even their homes in the economic turmoil we've seen? I'll bet you can point all around you, even to yourself. Overcoming what happens to us takes resilience or the ability to function despite taking hits. The better your brain is at handling screaming messages of "OH NO! ...or worse) while you attempt to extricate yourself, the better. And the better for your family. The author characterizes people on a spectrum. At one end, FAST to RECOVER (bouncing back, working with energy to overcome adversity.) On the other end, SLOW to RECOVER, those who sadly are crippled by a downturn in their lives. If you are at the less advantageous end, what can you do to bulk up the resilience? The author suggests a number of activities, from meditation (because we become what we think--mere thinking can sometimes even bulk up a muscle, why not the emotional strength of the brain) to cognitive therapy if you need help to escape thought patterns. I can heartily recommend good cognitive therapy for escaping those patterns formed in childhood that we all can't seem to overcome and which in some cases, we aren't even aware that we have.

Outlook

Springing off the idea from the first chapters, that we are what we think, that the now almost-cliche "power of positive thinking" is truly powerful, your outlook is how long you can keep up a positive attitude. Again, we fit on a spectrum, those who have a naturally sunny outlook (the proverbial Optimist) and those who naturally sink into pessimism by nature. If you are naturally a pessimist, what can you do to shift to more consistent positive outlook? It seems stupid--hey, the world stinks, why should I try to think otherwise, but again, your MINDSET actually determines what you see. If you have a cloudy outlook, you will literally miss opportunities you may be seeking, and if you are depressed, you telegraph a sense of sadness, anger and failure to those around you. Again the suggestions to improve outlook are mental training to re-route your thought to a more positive tenor.

I would add here, and something that is missing from the book, possibly due to its scientific bent, is PRAYER. I imagine that prayer is not mentioned often in this book due to the fact the author takes a scientific tack, but prayer helps outlook, and though there is no way to use science to prove or disprove belief, for those who do believe in God, this is a way to support a healthful outlook.

Social Intuition

Again, a spectrum, from those who are almost able to read minds from silent and obliquely verbal social signals to those who are oblivious (and sometimes, this is an aspect of conditions such as autism, where a person can be born literally blind to the subtle signs we learn to pick up.) One interesting and powerful suggestion to improve on social intuition is to listen with non-critical awareness. Simply OBSERVE and do not edit the social conversation around you with an internal commentary about the relative merits of the conversation's content or the person commenting. You'll miss things. So if someone is giving you an opinion that is probably something you disagree with, it may be challenging but try simply turning off the part of the brain that is judging and watch and listen. The exercise will wake up parts of the brain that see other things happening in the social milieu.

Self-Awareness

This again, a spectrum. I had a conversation with a licensed clinical social worker some years ago who told me that there are people who feel things but are UNABLE to connect those feeling to something that had happened in their life. This astonished me, but sad to say, not everyone is hard-wired to make those connections. When people eat out of emotion, for example, they may not recognize that an upsetting phone call led to an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomach, that propelled them to raid the fridge. The spectrum runs from highly Self Aware to Puzzled. If you listen to any of the radio or television pop therapy programs, try cataloging the person who is working on their issue. Are they aware or are they deep in puzzlement and need to have someone connect the dots for them? It's an interesting exercise. And where do we fit on that spectrum? If you are more Puzzled than Aware, that's fine--it's how you are at the moment, but what can you do to move you along the spectrum to a more helpful place? This is another area where cognitive therapy (the thought, the feeling, the actions all get connected, then new ways to think and react are worked on.)

Attention

How well do you focus on what is around you and what is happening? This is similar to the "being in the moment. It is one of the reasons that it is a problem to see your kids texting during a family gathering or dinner. They are not paying attention to what's happening. They are missing social cues. (See social intuition.) They are not in the moment. They are not really there. If you have the same issue, or simply find you drift in and out of the moment due to many distractions, what can you do to improve focus?

Now, despite the spectrum of these five characteristics, the author warns us not to judge ourselves and others and say "you need to be more socially intuitive", "You need a better outlook." The book is designed to have you measure where you fit on this map, and then to see if there is an area you would like to alter in order to move past something that is hindering you. In other words, if your style is to one end of each of the spectra, you are not "bad" but you might choose to play with an aspect of your Emotional Style to see if you can get new results that make you feel better. This is the take-home message; we all have an emotional style, we cannot judge it as "good" or "bad"--it's up to each of us to know ourselves and then, if we desire, to find a way to adapt our style to make our lives better. Fascinating reading, and I could almost recommend that if you read one "self-help" style book this year, this ought to be the one. It is very enlightening and combines a lot of the information that is circulating on helping ourselves live a better emotional life, but in a way that makes a system that can illuminate your interior landscape.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Descriptions of Brain Patterns, Little Practical Advice, August 20, 2012
This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
I admit, I was hoping for advice on how better to regulate my emotions. While this book provided some cursory tips, the bulk of the focus was on describing the author's research: what particular areas of the brain lit up when various emotions were taking place. For the general reader, this information is not that interesting. I give this a three star rating because the author has great research, but offers little practical advice or noteworthy tips.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the neurological basis of behavior and emotions through an easy to understand, informative, & personal narrative, October 7, 2012
This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
"The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live- And How You Can Change Them" is an informative and interesting neuroscience text explaining the neurological basis of the six Emotional Styles that vary from person to person. It is also an autobiographical story following Dr. Davidson on his journey to where and how he determined the findings detailed in this book. This book gives detailed neuroscience explanations that are concise and easy to understand for anyone of any background. Some of the experiments and studies described throughout the book seemed a bit long and tedious, but overall the conclusions reached in this book were fascinating and thought provoking.

Synopsis and Opinion:

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the idea that everyone's brain does not fit the exact same model, and that's fine. Diverse responses and reactions to certain situations are a result of each person's individual and unique emotional profile. There are six dimensions of Emotional Style, as Davidson distinguishes: Resilience (how quickly you recover from adversity), Outlook (how long and how well you can sustain positive emotions), Social Intuition (how well you are aware and notice social cues from those around you), Self-Awareness (how well you are tuned into your own body's signals and emotions), Sensitivity to Context (how readily you notice the context clues of your situation and environment), and Attention (how you handle distractions). Each dimension of Emotional Style is connected to a particular pattern of brain activity, which Davidson goes into further detail throughout the rest of the book.

Chapter 2 mostly consists of Davidson's background of why he became fascinated how emotions are connected to brain patterns. He goes into the somewhat detailed timeline of his degrees, universities he attended (and those he seemed proud to reject), as well as the numerous studies and experiments that laid the foundation to determining the specific parts and patterns of the brain that are connected with various emotions. Though I mainly skimmed the seemingly minute details of some of the experiments, Davidson provided a good balance between introducing more technical neuroscience terms as well as an introduction to his character and passion as a scientist.

Chapter 3 goes into more detail of each of the six dimensions of Emotional Style and allows the reader to assess their own unique emotional combination. The chapter is divided into subsections for each dimension, where each emotion is explained and described using various scenarios and questions to make you think about how you would respond. Each section has a series of true or false questions that lets you know where you fall in the range of each of the six emotional styles: resilience, outlook, social intuition, self-awareness, sensitivity to context, and attention. This was the most interesting chapter in my opinion because it was very self-reflective and interactive, which is most likely Davidson's intention.

Chapter 4 explains the specific, identifiable brain circuits and activity that are associated with each emotional style. Each dimension has two extremes, which are usually the result of either heightened or reduced activity in that region of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus, amaygdala, insula, and hippocampus. Figures depicting where each stated region is located helps the reader have a better grasp of the overall concept and helps them understand how the brain works as a series of related functions. This chapter lays the technical neuroscience groundwork for the book, but does so in a concise, well organized, and easy to understand manner for anyone of any background.

Chapter 5 explains how emotion style develops from an early age and can be determined in part by genetics. Through a long winded explanation of specific genes and overly-detailed account of several experiments involving babies behavior over several years, Davidson finally reaches the simple conclusion that behavior and brain function are not fixed or stable, but can change over time and in response to environment and experience.

Chapter 6 discusses how emotional style affects not only behavior and cognitive function, but physical health as well. Since emotions have physiological significance, as explained in the previous three chapters, it makes sense that they are associated with physical systems that connect to your overall health. Like in other chapters, Davidson makes his points using a plethora of previous experiment and studies varying from the effects of Botox injections to asthma to stress. This is the first chapter in which Davidson begins to introduce a self-help type tone.

Chapter 7 focuses on three examples of mental illnesses in the context of extreme emotional styles. Davidson explains the neurological and physiological basis for autism, depression, and ADHD as well as potential meditation therapies for each condition. I have never heard these mental conditions discussed in terms of emotional responses and thus found this chapter one of the more interesting ones in the book.

Chapter 8 focuses on the concept of neuroplasticity, stating that the brain can change as a result of experiences we have or purely mental activity. Davidson describes using several examples how parts of the brain can take over the function of damaged parts so the patient can adjust to function in a new way. By introducing the idea of meditation and mindfulness, Davidson begins to share his strong belief of the power of the mind to change the brain.

Chapters 9 and 10 are the most autobiographical sections of the entire book. Davidson writes about his journey to India and Sri Lanka study the relationship between meditation and attention and emotion in Tibetan Buddhist monks. Davidson is honest in admitting his first attempt at this study was not a success, since the monks were hesitant to work with Western scientists. However, this acted as a springboard for another avenue of study. Davidson name drops the Dalai Lama multiple times in this section and draws attention to his willingness and interest to assist Davidson in bringing traditional meditation to Western science. Through a series of experiments, Davidson quantitatively supports the Dalai Lama's notion that meditation facilitates emotional styles and can encourage a more compassionate outlook. These chapters are long and somewhat tedious to read through, but there is a nice bulleted list at the end of chapter 10 to summarize the most important and relevant parts.

Chapter 11 is the self-help conclusion to the book. It is divided into subsections for each of the Emotional Styles and contains a series of "exercises" that the reader can do to alter their set point on each dimension that you found out in chapter 3. These "exercises" are merely a list of ways to meditate: sit up straight, focus on your breathing, notice your emotions at the given moment, etc. A lot of these tips seem to be the same across each dimension. Overall, I did not find his advice helpful, but from reading the book I have a better understanding of how powerful the mind really is at contributing to my emotional responses and behavior.

Style and Structure:

This book is both educational and well written, and is suitable for anyone who is interested in neuroscience and how the brain processes emotions. Davidson explains technical neuroscience concepts in such a way that is succinct and easy to understand without dumbing down any important information. The organization of this book flows nicely. It begins and ends with a broader, more general idea of how emotions are processed and why that is important. The middle consists of the meat and potatoes of the neuroscience explanation of various parts and activities of the brain and how that corresponds to emotion and behavior.

If you are interested in the scientific thought process behind each of Davidson's main points, then this is the book for you. He describes almost every neuroscience conclusion with a previous study either conducted by him or someone he has worked with. He describes each experiment in extreme detail, from the determination of control groups to the time frame to the mechanical testing equipment used to test the expected outcome. For someone who does not have a scientific background, this could be considered boring and tedious; but if the reader is interested in figuring out how scientists design experiments, this book does a great job of writing in a style that is easy to understand and follow.

Notable Quotes:

"...the prefrontal cortex, sire of such executive functions as planning and judgment, controls how emotionally resilient people are." (68)
"The environment does not just shape behavior or even brain function. It also affects whether genes turn on or off and, therefore, which inherited traits we express." (112)
"The brain, it turns out, uses feedback from the body in basic information processing." (125)
"...mindfulness meditation transforms the neural underpinnings of attention, in this case by minimizing activation in regions that are not relevant to the object of attention." (211)
"I found that each of us has a color-wheel combination of the Resilience, Outlook, Social Intuition, Self-Awareness, Context, and Attention dimensions of Emotional Style, a unique blend that describes how you perceive the world and react to it, how you engage with others, and how you navigate the obstacle course of life." (225)

Overall Opinion/ Recommendations to Potential Readers:

I would recommend this book to anyone who is fascinated by how the brain determines emotions and behaviors and is interested more from a neurological basis. Students will benefit from the author's informative and detailed descriptions of basic neuroscience terminology and concepts, as well as his organization and use of informative examples of disorders studied and experiments performed. Readers looking for more specific examples to alter their emotional responses (if they are not happy with them) should look for a book with more of a self-help tone. This book is a great introduction to the inner workings of the brain and how its seemingly complex functions vary between individuals and how that impacts your everyday life. Davidson stresses that there is no need to change the way you are wired; but you can practice meditation and exercise your brain and/or adjust your environment to compliment your unique emotional fingerprint so you live your life to the fullest. Though I did not find the self-help style tips too helpful, I learned the most about my emotional profile through the neuroscience information, which was fascinating to read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost, but not quite, August 16, 2012
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I understand that scientists are excited about their research methodology; but the disappointment came after reading hundreds of pages about how the reserach was conceived and done. Then came the reason for purchasing the book -- the recommendations. However, they seemed to be the same old nostrums about the value of meditation. It probably works but, unlike the previous pages, there wasn't anything scientific to back up the prescriptions. Where were the studies of the brains before and after the meditation training and practice followed up by the data verifying that the subjects did actually experience a change?

Yes, I think meditation will change the wiring in your brain and through use you may well overcome some of your perceived or real problems. However, the proof was lacking. How do we know that the experienced meditator really changed his/her brain? We don't.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new research on brain and emotions, March 17, 2012
By 
A&D (Boston, MA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
Richard Davidson co-authored with Sharon Begley with this new book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain. The brain-research pioneer offers the readers a new model for our emotions: their origins, their power, and how we can change them if we wish. The authors gives us a new and useful way to look at ourselves, develop a sense of well-being, and live more meaningful lives.
This book is a treasure to read if you are interested in how your brain works and how it affects your emotions and your life.

Richard Davidson has been studying this field more than thirty years.
The author discovered that personality is composed of six emotional styles.
The author explains the brain chemistry that underlies each emotional style.
The author also provides strategies the readers can use to change their own brains and emotions.
Davidson and Begley state that we can retrain our brains so that we can become more resilient, less negative, and happier.

Great purchase! Very interesting to read!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, March 19, 2012
By 
Masakazu Suzuki (Higashikurumeshi,, Tokyo Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
Davidson has done extensive research on positive and negative outlooks and emotional styles. With the help of Sharon Begley, who time and time again explains difficult scientific research to us in a simple and even enjoyable way, he offers the hope of change to the many people who are less positive. This book is fascinating and should be read by many, as it offers a real path to change for the better.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Self-Help meets Cutting Edge Neuroscience meets History of the Field, April 13, 2012
By 
Constance Steinkuehler (Madison, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them (Hardcover)
This an exceptional book and I highly recommend it. Its one of the first (possibly the only) practical guide I've read to emotional wellness that is grounded in solid neuroscience. The practical parts are well-written without sap. The scientific findings are described and explained for a non-expert to understand. And the fact that he combines it with narrative describing his personal experiences as a founder of the field makes it immensely readable. Very glad to have read it. Highly recommend for anyone interested in the topic for either personal reasons or as a primer on the state of neuroscientific research on emotions.
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