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The Three-Pound Enigma: The Human Brain and the Quest to Unlock Its Mysteries Hardcover – January 20, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (January 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124235
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124233
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Can the complexities of the human mind be located in a physical organ? Where do our memories and our selves go when the brain dies? In her first book, Stanford medical student Moffett ponders these and other perennial questions through a series of pedestrian profiles of scientists and philosophers, among others. Moffett introduces us to neurosurgeon Roberta Glick, whose work offers a glimpse of the frailty of the human brain and the fact that even minor physical damage to it can whisk away our consciousness and memory forever. Other profiles include John Gabrieli, whose pioneering work with functional MRIs has led to new discoveries about how memory works; sleep researcher Bob Stickgold, who uses functional MRIs and virtual-reality games in an attempt to capture the operation of consciousness in the dream state; and Zen monk Norman Fischer, who teaches Moffett, through meditation, that mind and brain are not synonymous. While the profiles offer no new insights into the mystery of the human brain, Moffett sandwiches in fascinating interludes tracing the development of the brain from embryonic state to death. The interludes sometimes contain overly technical language, but they offer an instructive look at the brain. Line art. Main Selection of the Scientific American Book Club.(Jan. 20)
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Review

A riveting account of not only the newest research on the brain but of the scientists doing the work. -- Seed magazine

Succeeds as both a highly readable and surprisingly suspenseful book, as well as a comprehensively detailed one. -- Bookslut

Vivid and immensely enjoyable . . . both inspiring and entertaining. -- V. S. Ramachandran, author of Phantoms in the Brain and A Brief Tour of Consciousness

With her fascinating, easy-to-digest new book…[Moffett] probes humanity’s most well-protected secret. -- Southwest Airlines Spirit

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Chris Chatham on March 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
How does "the mind" emerge from the brain? We are closer to a coherent answer than ever before, thanks to accumulating evidence from a variety of fields - including cognitive neuroscience, clinical psychology, internal medicine, somnology, and even modern philosophy. In "The Three Pound Enigma", Shannon Moffett explores the cutting-edge of these disciplines, literally: from the risky operation by neurosurgeon Roberta Glick described in the first chapter, to penetrating theoretical discussions with the sharpest researchers around (including vision scientist Christof Koch and philosopher Daniel Dennett), this book provides a cross-section of current brain research.

Unlike so many popular science books, "The Three Pound Enigma" has something for novices and experts alike. Clear explanations of everything from fMRI technology & K-complexes to anterograde amnesia & dissociative identity disorders will dazzle the layperson, and yet Moffett also provides something for the professional audience: a glimpse into the personalities of some of the field's most successful scholars, sufficiently detailed to give additional insight on their (in)famous theoretical perspectives.

For example, although many can lay claim to having late-night conversations about consciousness, very few (other than Moffett, and her readers) have had such a conversation in a crowded Memphis nightclub with renowned consciousness philosopher Daniel Dennett. Or, perhaps a better example may be the anecdotes related by somnologist Robert Stickgold, who traces his career from undergraduate neurobiology research at Harvard, to a stint as a computer programmer, first on Wall Street ... and then in one of the country's preeminent sleep labs.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jose R. Villalon-Sorzano on February 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a most readable review of the work and praxis of front line researchers and writers on the subject of the relationship between brain and consciousness. It was a great experience to read this book especially while trying to read simultaneuously the much more detailed and specific book by Christopher Koch. Both readings illuminated each other. The recently deceased Francis Crick comes into a splendid light.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Andrew J. DiLiddo Jr. on March 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not to mention that the author wrote this book WHILE she was in medical school. She became enamored, if that's a good word, maybe fascinated, curious, are better words, when she took the Gross Anatomy class. She had to open up the face of the cadaver she was studying and her life has never been the same once she started to learn about the brain. She provides some historic perspective about what was previously thought about the brain and now what is known and what still needs to be known. She also relates the biochemistry of the brain to personality and mental illness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jana Audrey Veal on October 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Moffett's book takes the reader on two simultaneous journeys: a textbook presentation of the development of the human brain from conception to death, and a series of meetings with some of the world's most prominent neuroscientists and neurosurgeons. Intersected in the chapters profiling the scientists are interesting anecdotes and humorous quotes, providing the reader with a sense of the scientist's personality, not just their research.

Moffett begins by describing her fascination with the mind and the brain. During a medical school gross anatomy dissection, Moffett begins to wonder about the brain before her. What is the connection between the brain, a physical lump of tissue, and the mind, the theoretical seat of human personality? Moffett's book explores this connection during meetings with scholars and scientists who are seeking the answers to neuroscience's biggest questions.

After the introduction, a textbook-like chapter describes the early development of a human embryonic brain. Chapters describing brain development are alternated with chapters describing scientists and their research.

Dr. Roberta Glick is the first portrait featured in Moffett's book. Glick, a female neurosurgeon, works in a busy county hospital. Glick specializes in brain tumors and her research focuses on new ways to fight brain cancer. Moffett describes a day in Glick's life: Glick visits her patients, which include a man who had a pituitary tumor removed and a baby who had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, picking up her children, operating on a man with a bullet lodged in his skull, and attending temple. Glick describes sexism in the field of neurosurgery, and describes the way she has personally integrated her scientific profession with her personal religious convictions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By polychrome27 on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazing read! I would recommend to anyone in or out of the medical field. Written for everyone to enjoy. Filled with great stories mixed with good scienitific knowledge. A must read!
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A Kid's Review on July 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read this book about a year ago. I was recently found it again on my bookshelf and, after rereading it, decided to write a review. For anyone who has an interest in medicine of any kind, this is a great book.
Even for the lay person without any medical knowledge, it will prove to be thought provoking and inspiring. I myself found this in a library and decided to check it out on a whim. After this, I have developed an interest in neuroscience and have read many books on the topic. Still, this remains my favorite out of all of them. The reader friendly and occasionally humourous style of writing is appealing to readers of many ages and backgrounds.
The book covers different topics such as consciousness, dissociative identity disorder (DID), the mystery of sleep and dreaming, neuroethics and even neuromarketing. I really enjoyed how the author went into detail about each person she met with and talked to.
If you've ever had questions about your own mind and wish to dig deeper into how your brain works, I suggest reading this book.
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More About the Author

An emergency physician who can't stop thinking, Moffett currently lives in Shanghai, China, where her two extremely American kids are attending first grade in a local Chinese school--an experience stranger than anything she's ever seen in the ER.

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