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The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better [Kindle Edition]

Sandra Blakeslee , Matthew Blakeslee
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

In this compelling, cutting-edge book, two generations of science writers explore the exciting science of “body maps” in the brain–and how startling new discoveries about the mind-body connection can change and improve our lives. Why do you still feel fat after losing weight? What makes video games so addictive? How can “practicing” your favorite sport in your imagination improve your game? The answers can be found in body maps.

Just as road maps represent interconnections across the landscape, your many body maps represent all aspects of your bodily self, inside and out. In concert, they create your physical and emotional awareness and your sense of being a whole, feeling self in a larger social world.

Moreover, your body maps are profoundly elastic. Your self doesn’t begin and end with your physical body but extends into the space around you. This space morphs every time you put on or take off clothes, ride a bike, or wield a tool. When you drive a car, your personal body space grows to envelop it. When you play a video game, your body maps automatically track and emulate the actions of your character onscreen. When you watch a scary movie, your body maps put dread in your stomach and send chills down your spine. If your body maps fall out of sync, you may have an out-of-body experience or see auras around other people.

The Body Has a Mind of Its Own
explains how you can tap into the power of body maps to do almost anything better–whether it is playing tennis, strumming a guitar, riding a horse, dancing a waltz, empathizing with a friend, raising children, or coping with stress.

The story of body maps goes even further, providing a fresh look at the causes of anorexia, bulimia, obsessive plastic surgery, and the notorious golfer’s curse “the yips.” It lends insights into culture, language, music, parenting, emotions, chronic pain, and more.

Filled with illustrations, wonderful anecdotes, and even parlor tricks that you can use to reconfigure your body sense, The Body Has a Mind of Its Own will change the way you think–about the way you think.

“The Blakeslees have taken the latest and most exciting finds from brain research and have made them accessible. This is how science writing should always be.”
–Michael S. Gazzaniga, Ph.D., author of The Ethical Brain

“Through a stream of fascinating and entertaining examples, Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee illustrate how our perception of ourselves, and indeed the world, is not fixed but is surprisingly fluid and easily modified. They have created the best book ever written about how our sense of ‘self’ emerges from the motley collection of neurons we call the brain.”
–Jeff Hawkins, co-author of On Intelligence

“The Blakeslees have taken the latest and most exciting finds from brain research and have made them accessible. This is how science writing should always be.”
–Michael S. Gazzaniga, Ph.D., author of The Ethical Brain

“A marvelous book. In the last ten years there has been a paradigm shift in understanding the brain and how its various specialized regions respond to environmental challenges. In addition to providing a brilliant overview of recent revolutionary discoveries on body image and brain plasticity, the book is sprinkled with numerous insights.”
–V. S. Ramachandran, M.D., director, Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What do golfer's yips, the ability to see auras and the hypnotic appeal of video games all have in common? Each arises from the brain's body map. New York Times science contributor Sandra Blakeslee and her son, science writer Matthew Blakeslee, begin with a quick overview of the sense of touch. According to the Blakeslees, body maps are created by the brain, using touch, to spell out the brain's experience of the body and the space around it. These maps expand and contract to include objects such as clothing, tools or even your car. Some of the more interesting subjects the Blakeslees cover include muscle tone disorders, phantom limb sensations in amputees and the inaccurate body images associated with anorexia. Sketches and sidebars explore topics in more detail, while a glossary explains technical terms. With its breezy this is so cool style, this entertaining book will appeal to readers who prefer their science lighthearted and low-key. (Sept. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This popular synthesis of a technical field in neuroscience explores how the brain constructs its models of the body. Entangled with the perception of self, these maps are multitudinous and dynamic, as experimenters have discovered. The Blakeslees ground the idea of mental maps in the work of Wilder Penfield, a 1940s researcher whose probes on the brains of living people localized which areas of the brain represent which parts of the body. Subsequently, scientists have refined the concept of body maps, a history that binds the Blakeslees' informative explanations of specific maps, case studies, and psychic disorders. Expressed in an amiable, we're-all-in-this-together manner, their tour describes one's personal space and its extension to one's clothes, tools, instruments, and sports gear. The body in motion generates its own set of changing mental maps, distinguishing the graceful from the clumsy. Maps are plastic, report the Blakeslees, yet they also have permanence: successful dieters may still feel overweight, and amputees retain a map of the missing limb. Varied and revealing, this will intrigue readers interested in the clinical perspective on self-perception. Taylor, Gilbert

Product Details

  • File Size: 766 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DWM3O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,339 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
103 of 106 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book. The authors have a gift for making a complex subject understandable. Another plus is that, like the best of nonfiction authors, they stick to the subject and rely on facts rather than opinion. This book provides a wonderful introduction into an area of science formerly limited to neurologists and other highly-trained specialists.

Central theme
The central theme of this book is that the brain maps the body. In fact, different areas of the brain contain different kinds of body maps with different functions. These body maps in the brain determine such things as how you perceive reality and how you respond to that perception. One of the most fascinating aspects is the plasticity of these maps.

For example, have you ever noticed that you can "feel" with the end of a tool? You put a wrench on a nut, and you suddenly have several important bits of information about that nut. This is because your body map extends to include the tool. And it's why mechanics can accurately work without actually seeing what their hands or tools are touching. Body maps extend from the rider to include the horse and from the horse to include the rider. Lovers share body maps, and the book explores what goes on there also.

This book explores the effects of dysfunctional body maps, too, shedding light on such things as eating disorders and out of body experiences. And it looks at the interplay between body maps and culture, language, music, emotions, pain, and even parenting.

The brain and the body are not separate entities, but are intertwined, interdependent, and interfunctional. Understanding this fact is essential to understanding how and why body maps work. This book explains that lucidly.
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107 of 114 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Body Has a Mind of Its Own is a new book by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee, a mother-son partnership with a history of writing good science books and articles. I found this book from an article they wrote for Scientific American's Mind magazine.

The book is a fascinating summary of current research on how the brain and body interact, well-written and enjoyable.

It starts with the brain map that processes incoming touch signals and the motor map that sends out signals to your muscles. We all have much larger areas for our fingers, lips and tongue relative to the rest of our bodies, because accurate input from these areas is so important.

These maps change dynamically with use, so that pianists have much larger area for all their fingers, violinists have a much larger area for just their left hand. When two fingers are taped together, their maps merge; when they are untaped the maps revert to normal. Improper overlapping of these sensory/motor maps can cause performance problems, such as the "yips" that some golfers develop that make them jerk erratically on some strokes.

Mental practice can be as good as physical practice in some circumstances. When you have something down, and know how to do it, mental practice has the same effect on your mental body maps as physical practice. So at a certain level, you can cut down on wear-and-tear on your body and continue to improve by phasing in some mental rehersal.

Your brain has a tremendous degree of flexibility in how it integrates what it sees into your sense of reality. In a virtual-reality world, you can be given longer arms, or lobster arms, or a tentacle in the middle of your stomach, and your brain will accept what it sees and you will feel as if these changes are "natural".
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The mandala of the mind May 25, 2008
Research on the brain has come far since the 1930s when Wilder Penfield of the University of Montreal was compelled to cut open the skulls of epileptic patients. The process meant the epileptic victim remained awake. It was the only way Penfield could learn from the subject who would describe their reactions to his gentle probing. The information, however, often led to relief resulting from Penfield's later precise surgery based on his mappings. In this comprehensive account, the authors - a mother-son science journalist team - trace the research resulting from Penfield's early efforts. In clear, concise prose, they show the revolutionary advances that have come about since then and how Penfield's early "brain maps" provided the foundation for even more effective therapies.

Penfield's technique seems harshly cruel today, but the patients suffered far more from the disability than from the probing, as the brain has no nerves that transmit pain. The mapping became a guide for better understanding of how the brain and body interact. Some of this work was covered in Sandra Blakeslee's earlier collaboration with V. S. Ramachandran: "Phantoms In the Brain". That study pointed out how amputees can still sense the presence of a missing limb, even feeling "pain" that can have no discernible cause. This work carries the implications of Ramachandran's findings forward, expanding it to address other, less extreme examples. The body-brain links are many, varied and subject to constant change. The authors refer to this as "The Body Mandala", a graphic representation of a detailed, intensely interwoven network. In this mandala, however, change is constant and varying.

The hands and fingers play a large role in this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars neuroscience for dummies
It is an art to make science both fun and easy to digest. The authors do an amazing job of telling the brains complicated story; together they create an entertaining and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by linda m stanley
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book for movers and body oriented thinkers!
I love this book! I've purchased many copies as gifts for friends, or after giving my copy away, purchased a replacement. Read more
Published 6 months ago by HarmonizedMotion
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and informative take on how the brain and mind maps...
This review is intended to give a thorough summary of the book for those who are interested in learning about the brain and its connection with the human body, whether that be for... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Arnab Chakraborty
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than I Expected
Fun and fascinating...then there's all the good information I was hoping to get...and did!

My only argument with the book - and I totally get why they did it - and,,,it... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Victoria Pendragon
1.0 out of 5 stars Not so much
I didn't enjoy this book so much. It still had nuggets of wisdom scattered in its pages, but I think I have learned past where this book is. Read more
Published 18 months ago by tallfarmgirl
3.0 out of 5 stars a good balance
I do massage and the Emotion Code is good for a supplemental balance, A friend of mine is taking the whole coruse and loves it.
Published 18 months ago by susan jorgensen
5.0 out of 5 stars remarkable, challenging
This is a remarkable, but challenging book. The idea of neuroplasticity, discussed in an earlier S. Blakeslee book, has been carried to a whole new level. Read more
Published 19 months ago by algo41
5.0 out of 5 stars The Body has a Mind of it's Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You...
The book is excellent filled with the latest research and data on the workings of the brain. It's written in a user friendly manner, which I appreciate. Read more
Published on November 27, 2011 by Karen
4.0 out of 5 stars Neuroscience for the Average Person
A fascinating account written in almost layman's terms about how the brain interfaces with the body and its surroundings. Read more
Published on January 26, 2011 by Juanita R. Violini
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best science books I've ever read
The Body Has a MInd of Its Own is flat-out one of the best, most informative and most engaging science books I think I've ever read. Read more
Published on January 24, 2011 by D. Colman
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More About the Author

Sandra (aka Sandy) Blakeslee. I am a science writer with endless curiosity and interests but have spent the past 25 years or so writing about the brain, mostly for the New York Times where I started my career back in the dark ages (late 60s.) I've been writing books for the past few years (The Body Has a Mind of It's Own and Sleights of Mind are highly recommended, at least by me) but am also getting back to daily journalism (in 2011) despite the demise of MSM. So much is happening! It's a great time to be a science writer. As for back story -- I graduated from Berkeley in 1965 (Free Speech Movement major), went to Peace Corps in Borneo, joined the NYT in 1968 as a staff writer, then took off on my own, raised a family, lived in many parts of the world, now live in Santa Fe NM and even have grandchildren. To quote Churchill, so much to do....

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