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on March 7, 2007
As a seasoned psychotherapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Cozolino's well written exploration into the brain and our human propensity to attach and, hopefully, develop a self. Dr. Cozolino leads this exploration in a very reader friendly, yet scientific manner, illuminating the path with on target vignettes and cogent observations that has you underlining and starring his text repeatedly as a personal assurance to go back and reread that terrific insight once again. This adventure into the brain, it's chemistry,and our ability,and inabilities to attach is exceptionally depicted. Dr. Cozolino manages to deftly depict our brain function, and hook it to the regions of the brain that may be responsible. If you read Antonio Demasio's Descartes Error, and enjoyed it, you will absolutely enjoy this well written, interestingly presented and thoroughly documented book by Dr. Cozolino. I have never written a review, but the goodness of this book demanded I do so now. After reading this book, you will come away with a knowledge base you simply did not have before. It is one of those rare of rare books, truly 5 star.
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on November 11, 2007
I am in a neuroscience book group composed of clinical psychologists and social workers that has been meeting for four years. We've read about 25 books in this group over the years. Much of it has been tough going. This and Cozolino's book, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy, are two of the very best. They are comprehensive, clinically relevant, very well written, even entertaining. The clinical vignettes bring the neuroscience to life. His speculations as to the implications of the science and his ability to integrate it with attachment theory and clinical observations are compelling and stimulating. I have not written a review before but I am so grateful for these books that I felt motivated to do so. Couldn't recommend them more.
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on September 18, 2007
It is remarkable how many neuroscientists lose their nerve.

They often fail to follow insights and findings to their logical conclusions.

As an example, the brain consists of hundreds of systems and circuits each dedicated to specific functions, but most also able to contribute to the overall functioning of the organ and the organism. When the need arises, they can be recruited and pressed into the service of the greater good. These systems and circuits are the fruit of millions of years of evolution, but until recently few people saw them for what they are: individuals that also belong to ever more complex organizational hierarchies. Neurons, glia cells and the other key contributors to the functions of the brain live to communicate and cooperate. Each on its own is a stunted thing. Together they can create the works of Shakespeare, or work out how to go to the moon.

Louis Cozolino is professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, and in this book he pushes the envelop of the idea that brains are social organisms that develop and grow from their interactions with each other and with the material, maternal, familial and social environments. The important point is that the brain is not a static structure. It continues to grow and develop throughout life, and experiences sculpt the physical and functional landscape of our minds and bodies. Not just traumatic or adverse experiences, but also the positive ones. Hence the idea that psychotherapy and meditation may help reverse or re-fashion the maldevelopment and faulty wiring created by events earlier in life.

The basic concept is important. There are still people embroiled in the sterile nature vs. nurture debate. I recently heard some family members of people with a neuropsychiatric problem criticizing research that suggested a role for the environment in the genesis of the disease. They felt that it was a waste of time to look at anything other than the neurology of the illness. Yet the genes expressed in the brain do not determine behavior. Instead they help to condition the ways in which we respond to the environment. One mother was incensed, saying that her son had enjoyed a perfect childhood, so the illness was not her "fault." Chances are that it was nobody's "fault," but a delicate interplay of susceptibility genes with subtle environmental factors.

In Six Parts and 23 chapters, the book gives a very good overview of the roles of genes and the environment on neuroplasticity, neurogenesis and the development of the social and emotional functions of the brain.

Part I: The Emergence of Social Neuroscience Introduction: I-Me-Mine
1: The Social Brain

2: The Evolving Brain

Part II: The Social Brain: Structures and Functions
3: The Developing Brain

4: The Social Brain: A Thumbnail Sketch

5: Social and Emotional Laterality

Part III: Bridging the Social Synapse
6: Experience-Dependent Plasticity
7: Reflexes and Instincts: Jumpstarting Attachment

8: Addicted to Love

9: Implicit Social Memory

10: Ways of Attaching

Part IV: Social Vision: The Language of Faces
11: Linking Gazes

12: Reading Faces

13: Imitation and Mirror Neurons: Monkey See, Monkey Do

14: Resonance, Attunement, and Empathy

Part V Disorders of the Social Brain
15: Impact of Early Stress

16: Interpersonal Trauma

17: Social Phobia: When Others Trigger Fear

18: Borderline Personality Disorder: When Attachment Fails

19: Psychopathy: The Antisocial Brain

20: Autism: The Asocial Brain

Part VI: Social Neural Plasticity
21: From Neurons to Narratives

22: Healing Relationships

23: Social Brain and Group Mind

The chapters are followed by selected references up to the end of 2004, followed by a good index.

Although the neurosciences have expanded enormously in the last few years, this book remains an excellent introduction to the ways in which the brain develops through life and some of the research indicating that it may never be too late to change.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the brain and human behavior.

Richard G. Petty, MD, author of Healing, Meaning and Purpose: The Magical Power of the Emerging Laws of Life
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on September 27, 2009
In this book, Dr. Cozolino presents the brain as a social organ. He asserts that just as neurons need each other to grow and thrive through neural communication, our brains themselves need other brains, as they influence our brains' development and their capacity to learn, to adapt, and to heal throughout life. The brain is shaped by relationships throughout life. Indeed, "the brain is a social organ built through experience." Before purchasing this book, I expected the author to explore the parts of the brain that regulate social interactions. He exceeded my expectations.

This is a tremendously informative book for neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and for the layman. It suggests that neuroscientists adopt a social perspective in studying the brain. It lays out for psychotherapists a new approach to successful psychotherapy, which incorporates authentic relationships with their patients. It counsels parents to develop healthy relationships with their children, for the quality of parenting and early relationships leave an indelible mark on their children's brains. It emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships for the well-being of our brains.

The first part of the book, The Emergence of Social Neuroscience, coins the concept of the" social synapse". The author claims that as neurons communicate across synapses, people communicate across the social synapse. It is through this social synapse that we impact each other's neurobiology and, as a result, each other's behaviors. Our survival is contingent upon bridging this social synapse daily.

The second part, The social brain: Structures and Functions, explores the structures and systems that participate in the social functions of the brain. Specifically, it explores the cortical and subcortical structures, the sensory, motor, and affective systems, and the regulatory systems.
The third part, Bridging the Social Synapse, discusses experience-dependent plasticity, which means that our brains are able to organize and reorganize themselves (to change themselves) as we interact with our environments. Thus our brains change themselves to meet our needs.

The fourth part, Social Vision: The Language of Faces, explains the influence of gaze and facial expression on the social brain. In fact, "eye gaze plays a central role in social communication: It provides information, regulates interactions, expresses intimacy or threat, exercises social control, and facilitates coordination and cooperation." This part also expounds on the power of a pretty face.

The fifth part, Disorders of the Social Brain, explores social cognitive disorders (Autism and Asperger's Syndrome) and other social disorders (borderline personality disorder, psychopathy). It examines dysfunctional structures and/or systems of the brain that cause these disorders.

The sixth part deals with the power of loving relationships in healing an ailing brain, in changing behaviors that have been instilled by a long history of abuse. The author revisits the "components of psychotherapy that optimize neuroplasticity," thereby optimizing healing.

The mother-child relationship is a recurring theme that captures my attention and my imagination. The author presents a mother as a key player who has an extensive impact on her child's brain's plasticity and growth. The behavior and psychology of an adult is related to the quality of the mother-child relationship. He goes through several examples of how a dysfunctional mother-child relationship plagued the child's behavior. Upon reading this I started thinking about orphans and abandoned children in impoverished regions of Africa infested with war and diseases. In keeping with the arguments of Dr. Cozolino, I understand why these children have a delay in their development compared with children of the same age in Europe or America.

The section addressing the power of a beautiful face was very interesting to me. It was shocking to read that even the mother-child relationship is affected by the attractiveness of the child. Attractive children are treated better. The author mentions that the way we are treated is affected by how we look. Attractive people are afforded better jobs and are more likely to get their way, even in the court room. I personally have found myself subdued by an attractive face many times. This is because the sight of an attractive face activates the reward circuitry in the brain. I think we should learn to fight these natural inclinations for the sake of fairness and good judgment in many situations in life.

Professor Cozolino's emphasis on social neuroplasticity is a significant transition in the book. Actually, after reading about the long-lasting impact of the mother-child relationship, parenting, and early interactions on the behavior of a person as an adult, it is refreshing to read about the ability of the brain to transcend the hamstringing trauma of a troubled childhood, and to learn not to fear, to learn to love, as it is transformed loving relationships. Toward the end of this book I was looking for a testament of the power of the human mind, evidence that although one may have had an alcoholic mother, or a neglectful father, one can decide to negate all the bad memories, and take control of one's life. The author refers to this as "autonomic reversal." I was glad to read this.

The book exceeded my expectations as it examined the brain as a social organ. It explores different aspects of the social brain and stresses the power relationships have to shape the social brain. It demonstrates this power through the most basic relationship at the beginning of life: the mother-child relationship. Everyday we ought to think about how our behaviors influence each other's brains. We ought to be tolerant toward people who are somehow dysfunctional and think about how their childhood might have affected their behaviors. We ought to live a life that promotes each other's brain's growth and health.

This book is definitely worth the time spent reading it. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know about the brain in the social context and reflect on why certain reactions occur, certain fears exist, and certain addictions persist. I recommend it to any parent who is anxious about raising a child the right way. The author uses powerful real-life experiences as a psychotherapist to support his points.
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on October 22, 2008
The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain is beautifully written by Cozolino. It explicitly yet simply shows how the brain is a social organ that's development is not only dependent on genetics but also on experiences from birth into adulthood. This book allows you to understand how your relationships through the years have influenced your brain and formed you into the person you are now socially as well as how you influence the brain development of others through your interactions.

Style and Synopsis of the Book:
The style incorporated in the book is meant to continuously build on Cozolino's resounding fundamental theme that "there are no single brains" but rather our brains are connected and forever interdependent on other brains through six parts, which include:

Part I: The Emergence of Social Neuroscience discusses how the brain has evolved and differentiated from other species, why this evolvement has made our brain social and the importance of realizing the impact our relationships have on the brain.
Part II: The Social Brain: Structures and Functions explores how the brain develops and changes from birth to adulthood and identifies the structures that are a part of the social brain and their functions.
Part III: Bridging the Social Synapse explains the communication between our brains and the brain's regulation via experiences, attachment and memory from interactions with others, such as a mother with her child.
Part IV: Social Vision: The Language of Faces focuses on how our eyes and faces can convey emotion and how social we will be perceived by others as well as how are expressions can evoke emotions in others.
Part V: Disorders of the Social Brain gives examples of social disorders such as autism that affect how we interact socially with others and its impact on our relationships with others.
Part VI: Social Neural Plasticity shows how the brain has the ability to change and how our behavior with people can be relearned through healing relationships.

The book is filled with illustrations and tables as well as psychoanalysis and neurological studies that simplify and help to highlight the key points of each part. Clinical cases from Cozolino's interactions with his clients are also interspersed throughout, giving real life situations that further drive home the importance of our social development through our relationships.

Favorite Parts:
Bridging the Social Synapse was one on my favorite parts, especially chapter 10, "Ways of Attaching". In this chapter, Cozolino discusses the attachment patterns of individuals. To research this, analysts went into homes and observed the interactions between mothers and their children. Four attachment pattern categories were identified from this study--free/autonomous, dismissing, enmeshed-ambivalent, and disorganized. Free/autonomous is where the mother is readily available, sensitive, and perceptive of their children's feelings and needs. Dismissing is when the mother is unavailable, rejecting, and distant. Enmeshed-ambivalents showed inconsistent availability. Disorganized mothers were disoriented as well as frightening to and frightened by their children. The analysts figured out that according to which category the mother fit into influenced the reaction and behavior of the child as well as how the child will develop as a parent based on these interactions. I found this quite interesting because I was able to examine my own relationship with my child as well as the relationship of my husband with our son and see how our upbringing has influenced how we parent.

The clinical cases about Cozolino's clients were also a great addition to the book. Each of their stories allowed you to come into their world and assess how their development was shaping their relationships. It enabled one to see the big picture and bring everything that was previously read together. Some of my favorite cases included Joaquin's, Dylan's and Pedro's.

Opinion and Recommendation:
Cozolino states that "it is the power of being with others that shapes our brains," and this book helps to reiterate this point constantly by giving a greatly-detailed journey into the brain and back out to the world on how we are social and thrive off our interactions with others. Through this review, I hope potential readers gain an informative synopsis of the book as well as discover why it is a great read for those seeking a deeper understanding of the brain's involvement in shaping us into who we are through our relationships with others and its plasticity which allows for change and healing in our lives. I really enjoyed reading this book. It has inspired me to want to learn more about how relationships define us not only socially and emotionally but spiritually and physically also. I highly recommend Cozolino's book to others to read as well.
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on March 9, 2008
I've read many books deserving of 4-5 stars over the past year, but none as complete and practical as this one. Author Louis Cozolino does a superb job of discussing the basic neuroanatomy and creating the analog of social synapses in which, by utilizing one another via empathetic circuitry and mirror neurons, we balance one another out biochemically in our relationships. Cozolino distills the information down to the level that is necessary for a novice to understand, while then toward the end of each chapter relating it to a case study; many authors have done this before, but none have 'metabolized' the information so well in comparison to Cozolino--I honestly feel as though a basic conversation with someone reveals quite a bit about the person, and after reading this book I feel as though I could hypothesize as to what areas of the brain may be deficient in certain cases. I am not saying this book will give one super powers or X-Ray vision, but gaining insight is almost certain.

If you wish to understand human relationships on a hard scientific level, then this is a must have.
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on January 26, 2013
This book is absolutely Brilliant! Cozolino presents the social brain and the "social synapse". Quote #1:

Gaze, pupil dilation, facial expressions, posture, proximity, touch, and mirror systems are all reflexive and obligatory systems that work below conscious awareness. These and other systems yet to be discovered create a high-speed information linkup between us, establishing ongoing physiological and emotional synchrony. (p.337)

GBPFPTM Cheat Sheet

Gaze - The whites of our eyes make this effective.
Blushing - Only humans blush and have white sclera!!! (Group Selection?)
Pupil Dilation - Pupils are smaller when we scrunize, larger when we accept and appreciate what we see. (not dialate) di- lattitude - spread - move sideways.
Facial Expression - Hardwired to emotions. Common to all humans: fear, surprise, disgust, anger, ... [Huber Image to right]
Posture - How you look, stand, walk and gesture. ( gestures are abstract and symbolic like language]
Touch and Proximity Obvious? Intimate? Is sex subsumed by touch? How much higher can the bandwidth be - initmate is high bandwidth.
Mirror Systems - Helps us understand emotion in others because our facial muscles simulate the emotion.

The book has six parts: making the social animal case, brain hardware, the "social synapse", faces, disorders and the final wrap up section called Social Neural Plasticity. Each of the 23 chapters starts with a dense block of technical information - and each has a clear table that makes the amount of information a little less intimidating. Sprinkled thru-out are vignettes from the author's psychotherapy practice that exhibit various pathologies and mechanisms and how they can healed. The text is 343 pages with 76 pages of references and 20 pages of index. This is a feast of well researched details woven into a single narrative.
Making the case for the social animal talks about some of the evolutions that help the group/tribe by giving away the internal state of the individual. The two that really struck me are "the whites of our eyes" and blushing. The sclera is black in all other great apes. In humans, it is white and our eyelids show the entire width of our eyes. It is obvious what the person you are talking to is looking at. This is a specific human evolution. See: wikipedia:Cooperative_eye_hypothesis. We are the only animal that blushes. If there are only other people on our left side, we only blush on our left side! (p.162)

The brain hardware section focuses on those engines that participate in social processing the "social brain". The main structures are: orbital medial prefrontal cortex (OMPFC), Somatosensory Cortex, Cingulate Cortex, Hypothalmus, Insula Cortex, Hippocampus and Amygdala. There are several other systems that are discussed. One of which is the vagus, aka tenth cranial nerve - under the heading Social Engagement System. "The vagus extends from the brainstem to multiple points within the body, including the heart, lungs, throat and digestive system." (p.60) Also, Corticotrophin releasing factor - neat; vomeronasal organ, aka Jacobsen's organ "social smells".

Regulation systems:
Stress Regulation ( the HPA (hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal) system of hormone regulations) [HPA needs to be in the index]
Fear Regulation (OMPFC-amygdala balance)
Social Engagement (the vagal system of autonomic regulation)

Social Motivation can be divided into three categories: 1) bonding and attachment (regulated by peptides, vassopressin and oxycontin), 2) attraction (dopamine and other catecholamines) and 3) sex drive (androgens and estrogens) (p.62) Table 8.1 (p.121) Biochemistry of Social Motivation summarizes. (p.120) "When you depend on a substitute for love, you never get enough"!!!

Multiple systems of memory: implicit, explicit, implicit social, explicit social.

The fight or flight mechanism depends on the sympathetic pathway of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) (p.88) [ANS should be in the index]

Right: Illustrations from Netter's (see below)
Netter's Atlas of Human Neuroscience (Netter Basic Science) David L. Felten MD PhD (Author), Ralph Jozefowicz (Author)

p.146 Table 10-1, Attachment Research, mother and child. If the mother is:
Free-Autonomous, the child is Secure - seeks proximity, easy to soothe
Mother is dismissing, the child is Avoidant - denying, minimizing
Mother is enmeshed-Ambivalent, the child is Anxious-Ambivalent, not easy to soothe, not quick to return to play
Mother is Disorganized, the child is disorganized, chaotic, self-injurious

p.157, "If people maintain eye contact for more than a couple of seconds, they will either fight, have sex, or both."

p.177 facial expressions and emotions are so hard wired that we imitate a persons facial expression to get more insight into there emotions. Awesome illustration of facial muscles from Huber 1931. Also, I thought there was a bit on microexpressions in here, but, I can't find it and it is not in the index. 20 pages is not enough for this book.

p.187 "The structures of mirror neurons are not special in and of themselves; they serve this mirroring function due to their location. The reside in association areas of the frontal cortex where networks converge to process high level information. Mirror neurons lie at the crossroads of the processing of inner and outer experience, where multiple networks of visual, motor, and emotional processing converge."

Table 13-1, Brain Regions involved in Perceptual-Action Mirror Systems. Theory of Mind (TOM) p.195

p.249 Fear (Amygdala) vs. Anxiety (Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis) Seven similar physical reactions...
Amygdala and hippocampus and cortex. Fast system vs. slow system.

p.328 "We have witnessed the enegry evolution has devoted to reading the minds of others and how little attention is has paid to self awareness."

From Neurons to Narratives. Wonderful emphasis on the importance of stories. Expanded Quote #1!

The unifying functions of stories and the healing reflected in changing narratives rests upon the underlying physiological changes that occur during healing relationships. Gaze, pupil dilation, facial expressions, posture, proximity, touch, and mirror systems are all reflexive and obligatory systems that work below conscious awareness. These and other systems yet to be discovered create a high-speed information linkup between us, establishing ongoing physiological and emotional synchrony. (p.337)

This book would REALLY benefit from better brain illustrations. The Netter image is top notch! Netter's Atlas of Human Neuroscience (Netter Basic Science) David L. Felten MD PhD (Author), Ralph Jozefowicz (Author)

[does not mention the emotion laden information rich voice][ or smell - pheromones, etc. ]
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on August 12, 2008
Cozolino books is outstanding. Simple to read yet he provides empirical evidence into the development of psychopathology by juxtaposing "average" brains to those with pathology.

I enjoyed the research that he explained on trauma and stress and how it can shrink your hippocampus and create memory problems. This seems to be inline with the research that has been coming out on autobiographical memory specificity. This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to explore the biology of attachment and psychopathology.

I also enjoyed in the hope that he provides in being able to change the brain and change neurons and how they connect.
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on February 17, 2010
As a clinician working with children--especially children who have developmental issues, maltreatment issues, neglect, foster care and adoption, and other complicated issues; I found the book to be a clear, comprehensive, and excellent addition to the literature about childhood development. It offers cutting edge information about attachment and development, as well as a perspective that explains much of what can go wrong, and why. It should be required reading for ANY child specialist--in education, health, or other related professions. Excellent. Highly recommended.
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on March 11, 2009
I am a physician by training and an emotional-social intelligence instructor to groups. This book is outstanding in integrating research insights from the diverse disciplines of psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, and sociology. It highlights our increasing recognition of how the brain integrates our species for survival. I found myself inspired by the writing as well as the information. A great book with no "fluffiness" - this is for scientists and those wanting to be informed about how neuroscience is the underpinning of much of the human experience.
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