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The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life Paperback – March 27, 1998
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Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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For psychologists, particularly psychotherapists, this book should be required reading. Despite dealing with people's emotions everyday, few therapists can give more than a basic explanation of what exactly an emotion is, and how it influences human functioning. This is partly because most textbook discussions of emotions are either too basic or too difficult, are just plain boring, or don't make the implications for therapists clear. LeDoux's book changes all that--I've reviewed several academic books, articles, and texts on understanding emotions, and kept coming back to this one. Do your graduate students (who may be groaning under the pressure of a dry neuroscience text!) a favor and make them all read The Emotional Brain--they'll be just as educated, and a lot more excited as well.
There are excellent discussions of the different limbic system structures as well as the frontal lobes. The sections on the amygdala I thought were especially good, and the discussions of how the frontal lobes and the limbic areas interact in various and important ways is equally good.
Unlike other important areas of science, there are few really accessible books on the brain for the non-specialist, but I've noticed the situation has improved significantly in the last 5 to 10 years. If you liked this book and want to round out your knowledge of the human brain, I can also recommend the following books, all of which are similarly well-regarded and well-written:
1. Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, by Antonio Damasio
2. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, by Steven Pinker
3. Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, by V. S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee
4. Nature's Mind: The Biological Roots of Thinking, Emotions, Sexuality, Language, and Intelligence, by Michael Gazzaniga
5. How Brains Think: Evolving Intelligences, Then & Now, by William H. Calvin
There are about a half dozen others that I could have added to this list, but I would read these first. In fact, I would start with Gazzaniga's book and then read the others, since his book is more of a general introduction, whereas the others deal more with certain special topics.
If you read these books you'll be in pretty good shape in terms of having at least a basic understanding of current neuroscience. Anyway, good luck and happy reading.
LeDoux does follow through and explain his points, but alas, more in a manner establishing them and defending them against previous contrary research or thought than as a textbook or introduction for laypeople, which would seem to be his primary intended audience. He devotes a significant amount of space to historical background of how psychological and neurological sciences of emotion got to where they are today. Most of us don't need to know that research history. I don't care nearly as much about what was formerly thought as about what the author thinks Actually Is.
His point #1, that each emotion evolves differently and has its own neurological subsystem, is completely believable, but LeDoux lays out this emotional system for only one emotion -- fear. He is a prominent fear researcher, so we read several chapters focusing on fear and its cousin anxiety, yet almost completely nothing about all the others. Joy is mentioned once or twice, with no discussion. Love scarcely more. The sadness pathway is not outlined. He doesn't even take a stand on what the primary vs. secondary emotions are, a topic of argument going back at least to Descartes. I'd like to know what neurologists think about the development of these.
Sorry to be so negative. If the title were Fear and the Emotional Brain, I wouldn't have been so disappointed. LeDoux writes unusually clearly for a neurologist, and is thus a quicker read than Antonio Damasio, for instance.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Joseph Ledoux is a pioneer in the field of neuroscience and conscious and emotional experience as related to brain functioning. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
An excellent written book. While the subject is extremely complex the authors ability to translate the science of emotions into practical understanding the relationship between... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Robert T Cross
This book opened my understanding to the fundamental core of emotion in the human animal. Anyone who still thinks that we are primarily thinking beings, needs to read what the... Read morePublished 15 months ago by E. M. Sota