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The Idea of the Brain: The Past and Future of Neuroscience Hardcover – April 21, 2020

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An intellectual tour de force, and a brilliant demonstration of how a historical approach is often the best way of explaining difficult scientific problems... I cannot recommend this book strongly enough."―Henry Marsh, The New Statesman

"Elegant... engrossing... clear and lively... The reader will come away from this illuminating history of thinking about the brain with a renewed appreciation of the task that remains."―Carol Tavris, Wall Street Journal

"This ambitious intellectual history follows the changing understanding of the brain from antiquity to the present... Cobb's account is an important contribution: few have offered such accessible insights, with choice examples and clear explanations of the societal factors that lie beneath... It is a very good book."―Nature

"Sweeping and electrifyingly skeptical"―The Guardian

"A fresh history and tour d' horizon of "the most complex object in the known universe." Although scientists still struggle to understand the brain, they know a great deal about it; Cobb, a professor of biological sciences, delivers an excellent overview."―Kirkus Reviews

"The book reveals that there are many ways to think about what brains are, what they do, and their relation to the mind. Cobb's erudition and engaging writing style take us on an enthralling journey, rich with accidental discoveries, controversies, and rejected hypotheses."―Science

"In this engrossing book, Matthew Cobb deftly recounts the tortuous history of research on the brain, in which researchers pursue the hard problems of memory, consciousness, and volition, always limited by forced comparisons between human brains and the machines available at the time. A work of history and deep scholarship, but written in an engaging and lively way, The Idea of the Brain is optimistic about the recursive attempts of our brains to understand themselves, yet reminds us that the three most important words in science are, 'We don't know.'"―Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True

"The story of the most complex object in the universe has never been told with greater clarity, insight, and wit. Charting the route to future discoveries, this is a masterpiece"―Adam Rutherford, author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

"Matthew Cobb weaves a fascinating story of the historical arc of neuroscience, from the initial discovery that the brain gives rise to our minds, to the state of the art in the manipulation and control of the brain."―Russell Poldrack, author of The New Mind Readers

"This exquisitely well-researched and thrilling book charts an epic high-level quest to understand our deepest selves. Its scale and scope is phenomenal and leaves us with a profound sense of wonder about science and humanity as well as the brain itself. Altogether a feast."―Daniel M. Davis, author of The Beautiful Cure

About the Author

Matthew Cobb is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester, where he studies olfaction, insect behavior, and the history of science. He earned his PhD in psychology and genetics from the University of Sheffield. He is the author of five books: Life's Greatest Secret, Generation, The Resistance, Eleven Days in August, and Smell: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in England.

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Reviewed in the United States on June 19, 2020
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Top international reviews

Jaydubblah
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating for both academics and lay people
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2020
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1.0 out of 5 stars Just skip to the last three chapters.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 7, 2020
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Dr. Michael A. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and highly enjoyable read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 14, 2020
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