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Pictures of the Mind: What the New Neuroscience Tells Us About Who We Are (FT Press Science) Hardcover – January 17, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0137155163 ISBN-10: 0137155166 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: FT Press Science
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (January 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137155166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137155163
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #973,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Over the past decade, a revolution in medical imaging has allowed researchers to scan the brain of subjects in situ, while setting their minds to an assigned task. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) are revealing, among other discoveries, that the brain of some apparently vegetative patients can be active; the brain's ability to heal and grow well beyond what was previously believed; and the various centers of different behaviors and skills. Physicist and science writer Boleyn-Fitzgerald addresses brain injury, addiction, memory, meditation, and more with summaries of recent research, cogent explanations of what scientists are learning, and plentiful references. Fascinatingly, she illustrates how "knotty questions about morality, blame, and punishment provide abundant raw material for brain researchers," who can assess, for instance, "whether 'normal' brains are wired for altruism and cooperation." Boleyn-Fitzgerald writes in a clear voice, making scientific data engaging and accessible for anyone with an interest in the study of neurology, mindfulness, or behavior.
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Praise for Pictures of the Mind


Pictures of the Mind is an extraordinary book. It makes the unfolding scientific story of consciousness vivid, even joyous, while offering a sophisticated tour of what is known about our selves, our emotions, and our brains. A beautiful read.”

Ruth R. Faden,

Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University


“This book explores the many ways in which neuroscience is revealing remarkable things about the inner workings of our minds–not the least of which is the transformative impact that meditation can have on destructive thoughts and behavior. I have no doubt that Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald’s work will be of great benefit to those with an interest in this fascinating new area of inquiry.”

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche,

Author of The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness


“The mind is embodied, and it is relational. In this straightforward and illuminating book, Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald reveals pictures in both visual and narrative form that capture the power of the mind to transform the brain. How our mental lives shape and are shaped by neural circuitry–itself forever being molded by experience–is the central theme of these powerful portraits of what it means to be human. By learning to focus our minds in more compassionate ways–toward ourselves and others–we can literally promote a healthier and more integrated brain. Read these pages, and you'll be able to see for yourself!”

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.,

Author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Co-Investigator at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, and Co-Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center


“Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald has given us a remarkably clear and engaging account of the ways that the new brain imaging technologies can give us deep insights into our gravest maladies. Her conclusion, that healing may often lie with us, joins science with the wisdom of the ages.”

Jonathan D. Moreno,

Author of Mind Wars, David and Lyn Silfen University Professor, and Professor of Medical Ethics and of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania


“An engaging and compelling read that illustrates how the new brain science can help us understand elements of our basic humanity.”

Zindel Segal,

Author of The Mindful Way through Depression and Cameron Wilson Chair in Depression Studies at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

More About the Author

Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald writes from the perspective that we are always just a few good explanations away from being experts of our own happiness. She enjoys writing for curious readers of all ages and backgrounds, and she hopes that one day we'll all have quick and easy access to the technical knowledge that can help us lead happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives--more responsive to our own needs and to the needs of others.

With a degree in physics from Swarthmore College, Ms. Boleyn-Fitzgerald is a former recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and the Ida M. Green Award for graduate studies in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has worked as a staff writer for President Clinton's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments and as an analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists. She lives and writes in Appleton, Wisconsin with her husband Patrick and their sons Aidan and Finn.

Photo credit: Rebecca Klich

Customer Reviews

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Very interesting and informative.
Chris Barth
This books also gives us an insight on how to keep the brain healthy such as mindfulness, breathing, meditation, eating well and exercise.
Tuan Nguyen
All in all, this was a very intriguing book that was easy to read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, scientist Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald reports the latest on fMRI scanners and what they reveal to neuroscientists. The brain, once thought to be fixed and locked in after a certain age, is now known to be plastic and to regenerate. This neuroplasticity can give us great hope for people with injuries, addictions, memory problems, etc.

The journey begins with a British woman who was thought to be in a PVS (persistent vegetative state) but found to be conscious the entire time, but unable to communicate. The book highlights cases of various states, such as a young athlete who had everything a young man could want until after a tragic accident. He has since been left in LIS (locked-in syndrome). People have conceptions that such people would want to die, but most of them find something to live for and ways to communicate, even if just by blinking.

Moral dilemmas appear as we learn more about the brain. For example, one part of the brain rules morality and how we rationalize our moral decisions. Can we really hold accountable someone whose brain is different than the norm, thus leading to a crime? We are on the verge of being able to wipe out painful memories. Should we erase memories that ruin the lives of people with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)? Or would we abuse that as drug companies encourage us to expand the definition of PTSD to include bad relationships? (Think of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which this happened!) How could people learn from their pain, gaining empathy, if every painful memory were eradicated?

Another chapter informs us on where addiction takes place in the brain. People who have had this part damaged (the insula) have been able to stop smoking cigarettes effortlessly!
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107 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Beth on February 10, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I actually found this book randomly in the Kindle store while looking for books about Anne Boleyn, and decided to buy it on a whim due to a growing interest in neurology.

I'm glad I did.

This book taught me about the amazing possibilities and future of fMRI, but I also learned about just how important living in the present, as well as compassion and empathy, are to happiness.

As someone who suffers from extreme anxiety, i am deeply appreciative of the lessons I learned in this book. I have been walking down the crowded, stressful streets of San Francisco sending mental messages of "May you be free of suffering and all that causes it" towards strangers that usually scare me, and have found that love defeats all fear.

Thank you for writing this book and sharing your research with me. I can not express in words just how much it has helped free me from suffering, and may you be free of all suffering as well.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By BethBV on November 26, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book describes in very readable terms, the basic findings of recent research of the mind using fMRI imaging. Have you ever known someone that suffers (or has suffered) from anxiety disorders, coma, traumatic brain injuries? You need to look at this book! I picked it up on a whim and am so glad I did! This book does not give the "answers" but it explores research regarding the minds of "normal" people, those with Alzheimers, the aging mind, convicted criminals, teenagers, victims of traumatic brain injuries, etc. Absolutely fascinating and very informative! You will never look at people (especially "annoying" or "scary" people) the same after you read this!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter Clarke on March 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Like most of the other Amazon reviewers, I enjoyed this book. The author has no training in neuroscience or psychology (she studied Physics, then Science, Technology and Society), but she has been in touch with numerous mind-brain specialists and has made good use of their expertise. The book focuses on results with the new brain-imaging technologies, and deals with a wide range of interesting topics. These include the problem of identifying whether there are remnants of consciousness in patients who appear unconscious, psychological treatments for violent tendencies or drug taking, brain mechanisms of happiness, therapeutic forgetting, and the neurophilosophy of ethics.
The one thing I didn't like was the author's frequent attempts to use neuroscientific data as an argument for Buddhist doctrines. This was particularly striking in the final chapter, which is devoted to persuading us that the self does not exist (a Buddhist claim). For example, she writes 'Perhaps the most convincing neurological evidence of the absence of a single self running the show is the "split-brain" phenomenon...'. To me, the loss of the unity of self in split-brain patients (those with a sectioned corpus callosum) is an argument that there was indeed a "single self running the show" before those brains were split. That is not to deny that we may suffer inner conflicts and our unity may be fissured, but I don't think modern psychology and neuroscience support the buddhist denial of the self's existence.
Despite this objection, I vote four stars for this readable, lively and up-to-date book, which is appropriate for the general reader.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jayne P. Bowers VINE VOICE on August 24, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book to anyone with a genuine interest in the latest research on the brain, that three pound tissue mass that controls our waking, sleeping, walking, talking, and thinking. From behavior and emotions to movement and memory, the brain is the master control center. While the book states that brain research is still in its baby stages, there's much more information available than there was even ten of fifteen years ago. Of particular interest was the material on supposedly brain dead people who are aware of their surroundings. Because of imaging techniques, doctors now know that even those who seem to be in a vegetative state can hear and understand conversations, even those chats that concern their own states of awareness. One patient later described his anxiety when hearing family members and doctors discuss his prognosis as though he didn't exist!

Also of interest to me were the sections on the brain's involvement in drug addiction and its serious medications in Alzheimer's Disease (AD). About the drug addiction section, I know have a better understanding of just why and how some drugs have such a grip on people. And as a person who had a grandmother with AD, I was both intrigued and scared by the latest in Alzheimer's research.

Although the book is technical, it's not so medically based and ponderous that a lay person with a degree of knowledge about the brain and biology couldn't understand it. In fact, I'd recommend it as "must-read" for anyone who has ever asked WHY? or HOW? When considering some of the basics of human behavior and mental processes.
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