- Series: Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 3, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393705579
- ISBN-13: 978-0393705577
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,803,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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From Axons to Identity: Neurological Explorations of the Nature of the Self (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) 1st Edition
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“The big questions facing neuroscience are about how brain circuits contribute to self and personality, to identity. Todd Feinberg is one of the few clinician-scientists tackling these complex and important issues. I enjoyed From Axons to Identity and learned a lot, especially from the telling case studies.”
- Joseph LeDoux, University Professor, NYU, and author of Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are and of The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life
“From Axons to Identity confirms Todd Feinberg’s status as one of the world’s leading thinkers on the neuropsychology of selfhood. He is probing one of the Big Questions of 21st-century neuroscience: How does the brain, with its diverse and distributed functions, come to arrive at a unified sense of identity? The result is a genuinely radical and illuminating synthesis of philosophical and scientific ideas. This is exhilarating stuff.”
- Paul Broks, neuropsychologist and author of Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology
“From Axons to Identity is a rich, thought-provoking, and rewarding book with much to teach anyone interested in questions about mind and brain.”
- Metapsychology Online Reviews
About the Author
Todd E. Feinberg, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Chief of the Yarmon Neurobehavior and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, is internationally recognized as a leading authority on how the neurobiology of the brain creates the individual’s sense of identity. Dr. Feinberg has been featured on Dateline NBC, The Leonard Lopate Show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, The Learning Channel, among other appearances. Dr. Feinberg is the author of Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self and has written nearly 100 articles, abstracts, or books.
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In the end, I have concerns with such phrenological musings, as the literature to which the author refers, draws me in the opposite direction from attempting to centralize the seat of the self to the right frontal area, but to view self as a more diffuse and distributed event. While bottom-up convergence construct increasingly complex feature representations, top-down oscillatory processes are believed to bind broad distributions of interconnected neurons, referred to as ensembles, to resonate cooperatively across the brain's entire expanse to extend our capacity for meaningful representation of the world. Any CNS injury leads to some imprecision in our sense of ourselves, our capacity to effectively represent the world through the dynamic interconnectivity of neurons, and, in turn, upon our capacity to act upon our relationship with the external world based upon these internal designs to produce desirable change. The challenge remains to conceptualize and translate psychiatric concepts, such as the defense mechanisms, into terms that relate to our current neuroscience understanding, as such integration will lead to our greater effectiveness as psychiatrist armed with a clearer sense of our self(s).
The first chapters describe various types of brain lesions and their respective symptoms which, from the outside, may seem rather bizarre. But what Feinberg does here is much more than a simple description. He tries to understand why the patients have these particular, rather than other, symptoms. By going beyond neurology he raises the question regarding the meaning and personal relevance of these symptoms and argues that they can be considered as defense or compensatory strategies to overcome the deficits induced by the brain lesion. This puts him close to psychoanalysis as founded by Sigmund Freud and his concept of defense mechanisms as hierchically ordered and structured mechanisms of how to deal with conflict. Furthermore, in chapter 4 Feinberg discusses his concept of the self as a conscious mental unity over time in the context of Freud's concept of the ego. Though there are differences, both share the notion that the self or ego corresponds to some kind of organization and structure. This is picked up in chapter 5 where Feinberg discusses the neural mechanisms underlying such a concept of self. He argues that there is a certain hierarchy of higher and lower regions in the brain but that both are mutually dependent on each other; they represent, as he says, a "nested hierarchy". Chapters 6-8 put such concepts of self and brain into the context of philosophical problems like the mind-body problem, mental unity, and consciousness; argues that the latter, consciousness, is a process. This lets him to conclude that our self is a process; it is not what the brain is but, as he says, "what the brain does".
This is a remarkable book since it closely intertwines neurological, neuroscientific, psychodynamic and philosophical issues without reducing them to each other as it so often theses days is the case. Feinberg demonstrates his excellence within and across fields, and also shows his ability to link them. It is in these linkages between the different disciplines where he finds and "locates" the self. A marvelous book and a "Must" read for everybody who deals with the self - his own self and the selves of others - be it personally, scientifically or philosophically.
Dr Georg Northoff