In the last decades of the 20th century, scientists have come to believe that the human brain is almost completely modular. Every bit of the brain does something in particular, and surprisingly specific abilities, memories, and responses are in localized areas. Journalist Rita Carter has drawn a map of what is known (and speculated) about the mind in a heavily illustrated field guide to the human brain.
Carter and her scientific editor, neuropsychologist Christopher Frith, cover the state of the mind in a reasonably accurate, accessible way. They emphasize topics that are likely to be of some practical interest--such as Alzheimer's or attention deficit disorder--but not so much as to give a distorted picture of the field.
Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book are the sidebars written by a variety of leading names in mind-brain science. Roger Penrose writes on computer minds, Francis Crick on consciousness, Steven Rose on memory, John Maynard Smith on social evolution, William Calvin on mosaic minds, Kay Redfield Jamison on creativity and bipolar disorders, and more. It's a stellar assortment, more than worth the price of admission--and there's a map of the mind on the cover, in case you misplace yours. --Mary Ellen Curtin
From Publishers Weekly
Carter, a distinguished English medical journalist, has written a handsome and very accessible book designed to introduce laypeople to contemporary neurochemistry, neurobiology and brain research. Carter shows how this research has traced emotions, impressions, thoughts and behaviors?from tasting a sprig of thyme to solving a math problem to killing an intruder?to particular parts of the brain. Descriptions of normal brain function are interspersed with details about the research and about extraordinary, illuminating cases: of the woman to whom the name "Richard" tasted like chocolate, of the man who tried to have sex with a sidewalk. 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 hypothesized "syndrome E," a neurobiological disorder, in young men who carry out genocides. Mixing established knowledge with new speculations, Carter takes care to tell readers which is which. She strews her text with bright diagrams and pictures, and avoids specialized or technical language: readers of Scientific American, or even of Oliver Sacks, may find themselves wishing for more detail. Carter seems to be writing for adults and teens who don't know the field and want to learn it, and she does it right. Short inset essays (some by distinguished scientists, others by Carter) address such specific topics as the chemistry of drug addiction, the origins of autism and alleged differences between gay and straight brains. 100 color & 50 b&w illustrations.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.