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The Brain: Big Bangs, Behaviors, and Beliefs Hardcover – April 24, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An engaging and complex examination of the development of the human brain throughout its evolutionary history."—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic 2012 Title for Psychology within the Social and Behavioral Sciences category.
(Outstanding Academic Title Choice 2013-05-22)

About the Author

Rob DeSalle is curator, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History, where he has curated several special exhibitions, including Brain: The Inside Story. Ian Tattersall is curator emeritus, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, and with DeSalle co-curated the Hall of Human Origins at AMNH. The authors live in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; F First Edition edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300175221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300175226
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,143,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an unusual book on the brain in that it takes a comprehensive view of the evolution of the modern human brain. It starts at the very beginning with some background in evolutionary theory, the evolution of life, cells, and brains. It examines the similarities and differences between our brains and the brains of other forms of life.

It's hard to describe this book because it is fairly different from the typical "brain book" you will find. See the bottom of this review where I copied a paragraph from the description on Amazon.

I strongly recommend you use the Amazon "Search Inside" feature offered for this book. In particular look at the table of contents, the timeline on pages 309-310, and the pages of the epilogue that are available in "Search Inside". These will give you a good idea what the book is about. The search inside feature is excellent and under used on books where it is available.

I love science and this book is wonderful. It contains a wealth of information that you would not normally expect to find put together with a good narrative flow. Very highly recommended.

From the description:

"Tapping the very latest findings in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and molecular biology, Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall explain how the cognitive gulf that separates us from all other living creatures could have occurred. They discuss the development and uniqueness of human consciousness, how human and nonhuman brains work, the roles of different nerve cells, the importance of memory and language in brain functions, and much more. Our brains, they conclude, are the product of a lengthy and supremely untidy history--an evolutionary process of many zigs and zags--that has accidentally resulted in a splendidly eccentric and creative product."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Note: This review was originally posted in my personal website.
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This is an ambitious book. The brain is probably one of biology's "ultimate frontiers" and one of the most interesting topics to think about. Given the scope of what the authors tried to achieve, this is a pretty good book! The authors are recognized experts in the fields of genetics and anthropology, and both are prolific authors of specialized scientific articles as well as popular science works. Dr. Tattersal alone has published 3 books in 2012, including this one!

I must say that I enjoyed the book. It presents a rather interesting summary of neuroscience, from the very small to the bigger matters. The authors were able to seamlessly integrate such wide topics as philosophy, biology and cosmology in a coherent way. I do not know how they pulled it off. That's the good news... The not so good news is that there are several instances of innacurate statements, especially in the area of neuroscience. For example:

Page 57: They talk about a type of sea slug, and they name it Aplysia californicus. The correct name is Aplysia californica. I know, extra picky, but there is a reason for mentioning this fact; it is found at the very end of this post.

Read on...

Page 72: When talking about some types of glutamate receptors, they correctly named three of the receptor subtypes, those sensitive to the compounds AMPA, NMDA and kainate (look them up, they are really interesting). However, they imply that these three compounds (A, N and K) are the native neurotransmitters. They are not. These three types of receptors are all activated by glutamate, and selectively activated by A, N and K. This is a technical difference, but it is important.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The brain constitutes one of those areas of intensive research and broad popular interest which in recent years has produced startling results, especially in genetics and molecular biology. This book treats the subject comprehensively, beginning with basic considerations in physics and chemistry, then following an evolutionary scheme through the physiology of the nervous system to a summary of archeological findings on the hominid brain. It is marred only by occasional attempts to replicate the idiom du jour. Where earlier generations of science writers might use classical allusion, these authors sport celebrity and television references.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Cannot help but admit this book was over-detailed for what I was looking for. Still, very interesting with regard to just deciding what is a brain. The last chapter and epilogue were very well written.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although I am not quite finished with it, I am enjoying this book a great deal. I would caution that it does require a fairly sophisticated understanding of biology – at least as far as I have read. If you are intellectually curious and do not mind a challenge to find startling and interesting pieces of information, then this is a good book for you.
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By Terry7 on December 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book brings together a wonderful diversity of facts and disciplines into a compelling account of how our brains evolved. It is especially valuable because it admits to the huge gaps in our knowledge.
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