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100 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brainy, fascinating fun
"Welcome to Your Brain" examines the kinds of questions that got me interested in neuroscience 20 years ago when I was a college student fascinated by Oliver Sacks.

The tour of our mental landscape is presented in very short chapters that are punctuated by "Did you know?" "Practical tip" and "Myth" pullout boxes. The scientifically-accurate, up-to-date...
Published on March 21, 2008 by Amy Tiemann

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30 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, but disappointing
After hearing an interview with the authors of this book on NPR, I couldn't wait to read it. I always have questions about how and why different things in the brain are the way they are, and I love reading this genre of book. When I finally got to read the book for myself, I was disappointed. The authors did not do an effective job of choosing the right level of detail...
Published on December 17, 2008 by Logan D


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100 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brainy, fascinating fun, March 21, 2008
"Welcome to Your Brain" examines the kinds of questions that got me interested in neuroscience 20 years ago when I was a college student fascinated by Oliver Sacks.

The tour of our mental landscape is presented in very short chapters that are punctuated by "Did you know?" "Practical tip" and "Myth" pullout boxes. The scientifically-accurate, up-to-date information covers details about how the brain works, while also providing a plethora of fun dinner-table conversation starters.

"Welcome to Your Brain" provides a great entry point for curious students and anyone interested in learning more about science. It's unusual to find a book that covers both the biological details as well as the science and society issues related to the brain.

So if you are curious why you can't tickle yourself, what the Dalai Lama thinks about reaching enlightenment through "artificial" means like drugs or surgery, and how brain function is related to prejudice, you'll want to check out "Welcome to Your Brain."
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Demystifing a complex subject with humor and real insight, April 5, 2008
As a sufferer of Parkinson's disease, one of many Neurological diseases suffered today by millions world wide, I found this book both interesting and informative. It is written with real knowledge -as confirmed by my Neurologist, and with humor and just a little smugness at their debunking many of the myths we have held near and dear.
It is at once informative and interesting and really easy to read. It certainly exceeded my expectation. I have recommended it to many people from my Neurologist and other health professionals, to my fellow Parkinson's sufferers and other interested people.
Unfortunately I still can not remember where I put my car keys, and according to my kids, I have also forgotten how to drive.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dispelling myths about the brain, March 20, 2008
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This book by two neuroscientists is an outstanding, fun and smart introductory guide to the function of the brain . They explain how the brain does all sorts of cool things for us (what makes you a morning person vs. a late-night person, how your brain complicates trying to lose weight). The books also explains the origin of common myths (do you really only use 10% of your brain? can a knock the head restore memories?) and whether they are true (in these cases, they are not). The great and unusual thing about this book is that they do this based on real neurobiology but they make it accessible to all adults, no matter their educational background.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you've wanted to know about your brain (but were afraid to ask), March 20, 2008
I've always wanted to know more about our brains but I wanted to make sure I had the latest research, a book from 20 years ago will not do. This book helps you catch up with the latest research and a lot more. It engages you with useful ways to come to an understanding of how your brain works. This is good for us people who want a simple way to visualize what is going on.

The best part about this book is the authors have created a book that is witty and entertaining. This makes an already interesting subject fun. I'd recommend it for libraries and schools.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Neuroscience Book with Many Interesting Examples, September 26, 2009
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Sandra Aamodt's and Sam Wang's book entitled "Welcome to the Brain" is a nonfiction scientific work presented with the purpose of educating the public about the human brain and its relationship with its surroundings. This review of the book is written to provide a comprehensive explanation of its various components and offer my personal opinions of its content and style.

The book is a fascinating read which provides an excellent informational background about many facets of neuroscience. Its key feature is that it is geared towards those who don't possess in-depth knowledge of the brain, helping them understand many of the common neurological phenomena that affect individuals. The authors offer multiple examples which introduce various neural functions/trends. This makes the scientific facts that they illustrate easy to follow. On the whole, the book gives an educational overview of the brain which does not confuse the reader. Therefore, I believe it is an effective tool to learn about the human brain. Additionally, the explanations for routine neurological occurrences make the book a useful reference.

The unique style of this book makes the information understandable, especially for those without a background in neuroscience. The book is comprised of examples relevant to a normal person's life and every-day events and it steers away from confusing examples that are detached from real world scenarios that most people encounter. It also contains a multitude of helpful hints that have practical application, including the physiology behind acupuncture.

The book is divided into six sections of informative text accompanied by an introductory quiz. The quiz initiates the reader's interest in the topic by testing his understanding of the brain. The authors follow the quiz with thirty one chapters covering topics such as the brain's relationship with the surroundings, senses, the brain's ability to change, emotions, cognition, and the multiple states of the brain. Each section cycles through several examples, myths, and enlightening tips that encourage the reader to delve further into the book. The following descriptions detail the six sections.

"Your Brain and the World", the first of the six parts, focuses on introducing the brain to the reader. The authors explore the brain, how it perceives the world, and how the world perceives it. The book discusses the how the brain deceives people, provoking the thought: "can you trust anything the brain tells you"? The authors also point out several incorrect perceptions of the brain, including the frequent belief that humans "use only 10 percent of their brains". I enjoyed this portion of the book because it combines all of these fascinating topics and presents it in a readable fashion.

"Coming to Your Senses", deals with the major senses perceived by the brain. This part has fascinating information about the sensory input to the brain. An example illustrating the interconnection between the various sensory inputs to the brain is explained by offering a tip to hear better through a cell phone. It is mentioned that when you are having trouble hearing from a phone in a noisy room, due to the "source separation problem", cover the mouthpiece to produce better results while carrying a conversation.

"How Your Brain Changes Throughout Life", the third section of the book, explains the brains ability to modify itself throughout life. The mechanism for this changing of the brain to adapt to new situations is explained by synapses between neurons. Critical evidence from mice studies shows that "modifying synapses is one of the brain's most important jobs." As the authors mention, this understand holds the key to many areas of future neuroscience research.

"Your Emotional Brain" discusses emotions by saying they "occur in response to events in the world and keep our brains focused on critical information", not the mental cloud commonly perceived. A controversial but interesting topic explored is questioning if "men learn to be gay". The authors show evidence that the majority of gays displayed several indicating factors in their mother's womb or through other genetic factors. One indicator that the authors mention in relation to homosexuality is the existence of an older brother, which can potentially be explained by antibodies generated in the mother from birth of the first son.

"Your Rational Brain" describes appealing phenomena such as decision making. The authors explain the reasoning behind playing the lottery. They mention that "the payoffs of extremely low-probability events, such as winning the lottery, do not appear to be represented accurately in the brain." The book conveys appeal of this distortion by illustrating the complexity involved in seemingly simple decisions.

"Your Brain in Altered States", the last of the six parts, describes several altered states of the brain such as when it is affected by drugs, spirituality, and sleep. An interesting analysis was performed on how the Dalai Lama classified meditation: it is "divided into two categories: one focused on stilling the mind and the other on active cognitive processes of understanding." This analysis intricately linked meditation to synchronization of certain brain patterns.

In summary, the defining feature of the book is the manner in which the authors try to convey information about the brain. Their style of explaining the brain, its functions, its development, and its interactions with surroundings is very unique because they attempt to put all the material into context for the readers. They provide thought stimulating examples which relate scientific knowledge in the context of normal situations. Furthermore, the authors insert several informative boxes throughout the text. These boxes have themes such as Myth, Did You Know, and Practical Tips. These boxes are fascinating; however, I believe the authors make a critical mistake in presenting these boxes. They are so frequently scattered within the book that they break the flow of the main reading content which the authors are trying to convey.

This book serves as an excellent introduction into the functionality of the brain. Thus, I strongly recommend it as a starting point for people who are developing a passion in the field of neuroscience or are just curious about the brain.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining!, June 8, 2008
Who would have guessed that two neuroscientists could write such an entertaining book about brain function? I knew I was going to enjoy this book when I got to page 10 and, in a discussion of which movies portray brain disorders accurately and which don't, I read: "Another offender is the movie 50 First Dates (2004), which portrays a pattern of memory loss that never occurs in any known neurological condition. Drew Barrymore plays a character who collects new memories each day and then discards them all overnight, clearing the way for a brand-new beginning the next day. In this way she is able to tolerate more than one date with Adam Sandler."

Written with humor and chock-full of real and practical information about your brain, this book is a worthwhile read for anyone. Interspersed with the chapers are "snippet boxes" of "Did you know?" "Myth" and "Practical tip" sections where you will learn things like: why we sometimes sneeze when we look into a bright light, why we yawn, why we can't tickle ourselves, that listening to Mozart WON'T make your child smarter, but learning to play an instrument will, how to overcome jet lag, how to hear better on your cell phone in noisy situations. You'll find sections on how your senses work, how your brain changes as you age, how your brain affects your emotions - even a chapter on how drugs affect your brain. Very interesting reading, from start to finish
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Readable Without Being Dumbed Down, April 23, 2008
Neurobiology is one of those fields that is finding out new things every day. This book gives an up-to-date and wide-ranging overview of how it all works, and doesn't stint on the science. From jet lag to memory, brain injury to decision-making and intelligence, this book discusses it all. This would be a great starting point for further reading, or (as it was in my case) just a fascinating look at many facets of brain function.

Lively enough to entertain, yet not so dumbed down as to be silly. Highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Useful Book about the Brain, March 22, 2008
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I really liked this book. I'm a psychology professor, and I think the book will be a great gift for family members who want to learn more about what I study, and for friends who are curious about the mind and how it works. The book provides a clear and educational introduction to the psychology and neuroscience of thinking and perception, in a very entertaining manner. I think the book is a great read for people with some knowledge in the field too (such as psychology instructors, medical doctors). It is full of surprising anecdotes that make great cocktail conversation, and actually teach you something about the brain in the process. I think I will leave it on my coffee table so I can remind myself of some of the cool examples in it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read and good for you, too, March 21, 2008
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Of all the popular science brain books on the market, few are as credible, readable, or entertaining. The point of departure for most topics as they are introduced is to debunk common myths and misunderstandings about the brain. These authors actually know what they're talking about and they manage to convey their message in a fluid conversational style rather than getting bogged down in technical jargon or worse---they never lapse into the psychobabble found in too many self help type neuroscience books. Grounded in common sense, yet authoritative and up-to-date---it's a great read!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A User Manual for the Brain, October 20, 2008
The aim of this review is to provide potential readers with an insightful synopsis of Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang's "Welcome to Your Brain." The authors are well-known neuroscientists who possess the expertise to explain the science behind life's most common annoyances and questions.

"Welcome to Your Brain" presents a wide range of neurological facts, processes, and pathways in a context which does not require a Ph.D. in neuroscience to understand. It provides explanations for everyday events: those things that happen in life which leave you wondering why. Using this approach, the authors have produced a piece of scientific literature with which any ordinary person can relate and comprehend. It is filled with information and suggestions which have practical applications and scientific support.

This book is organized into six sections dealing with the workings of the brain: the brain's interaction with the world, the five senses, brain changes during life, emotion, rationality, and altered states of the brain. The first section deals with the brain and the outside world, and addresses how the brain interprets different situations, as well as brain structure. The five senses section discusses the structures of the eyes and ears, and how the brain processes sensory information. Section three focuses on the brain with respect to childhood, critical periods, and old age. The fourth part touches on where emotions come from, anxiety, how we find happiness, and personality. In the next section, decision making, intelligence, and memory are discussed. Finally, section six delves into consciousness, sleep and dreams, spirituality, and the effects of drugs and alcohol. These sections cover a very broad range of neuroscience topics, but effectively explain and describe these complex functions in a way which is interesting and useful.

The style can be most adequately described by the words insightful, humorous, and light-hearted. It is extremely easy to read and understand, even to someone with no background in neuroscience, and the information is presented in a concise manner. It is structured into six parts, described above, and each part is further divided into a number of chapters. Appropriately placed "Myth," "Practical Tip," and "Did You Know?" boxes supplement the text, explaining false myths, tips such as how to offset jet lag, and other useful facts backed by scientific evidence. The text is also sprinkled with insightful, thought-provoking quotes.

"YOUR BRAIN AND THE WORLD"
The highlights of this section include an explanation of how the brain processes information, a comparison between reality and the imagination of hollywood, and a lesson on the structure of the brain. Especially interesting is the explanation about how the brain must simplify much of the information it receives, essentially saying "your brain lies to you." Also, the explanation given about the regions of the brain, neurons, synapses, and signaling is presented in a very logical and understandable way, and the figures shown are helpful in depicting these concepts.

"COMING TO YOUR SENSES"
This part does an exemplary job of explaining the structures of the eyes and ears, pathways to the brain, and the way in which receptors transmit information. Although descriptions are brief, the important aspects of each of the five senses are mentioned. Also included in this section is an interesting explanation of how optical illusions fool the brain, with a few examples which are worthwhile.

"HOW YOUR BRAIN CHANGES THROUGHOUT LIFE"
This section discusses changes the brain undergoes from early childhood to old age. It emphasizes that parental obsessions such as the idea that "if little Emma doesn't attend the right preschool, she'll never get into a decent college" are unwarranted. Also touched upon is not only the functionalities lost with aging, but also those that are maintained, such as verbal skills and vocabulary.

"YOUR EMOTIONAL BRAIN" & "YOUR RATIONAL BRAIN"
Emotion is described as "the weather in your brain," and it is emphasized that while most people view emotions as getting in the way of rational choices, the opposite is in fact true, and that anxiety, something which makes a person feel bad, often leads to good behavior, an important point to note. These sections also explore happiness, personality, and decision making in a way which is eye opening to truths which may not be obvious or seem logical.

"YOUR BRAIN IN ALTERED STATES"
This section provides especially interesting information regarding consciousness, dreaming, beliefs, and drugs and alcohol. The book states "The concept of free will presents an apparent paradox to anyone interested in the philosophy of how the brain works" - something to think about. Although many of these aspects of the human condition are not fully understood, there are excellent explanations of what is known and what may be true concerning these topics.

SUPPLEMENTS: "MYTHS," "PRACTICAL TIPS," AND "DID YOU KNOW'S?"
The supplement boxes are perhaps my favorite part. They provide excellent snippets of information which is useful in everyday life. For example, one of these boxes explains how to hear someone on a cell phone better in a noisy room.

In summary, I feel that this is a well written, informative, entertaining, enlightening and practical guide to common issues which arise in everyday life and can be related to the human brain. It is filled with exemplary explanations and practical tips which are useful to almost anyone on a day to day basis. The facts are supported by scientific studies which are in many places discussed, giving credibility to statements which may otherwise seem odd to someone who is not learned in the field of neuroscience. Although most of the information presented may not be intellectually stimulating to a seasoned neuroscientist, this book offers an opportunity to become interested in the field and is an inspiration to learn more about the most complex part of the human body.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has a desire to learn about how their brain works, and why we do, feel, and experience life the way we do. It is an excellent place to begin and foster a desire to study the human brain.
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Welcome to Your Brain
Welcome to Your Brain by Sandra Aamodt
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