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The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning

3.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465020478
ISBN-10: 046502047X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Sam Kean, author of The Violinist’s Thumb, Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Bor takes on the oldest, thorniest question in neuroscience—what is consciousness?—and delivers a masterly overview of everything scientists think they think right now.”

New Scientist
“In The Ravenous Brain, Bor takes us on a tour of the fascinating world of consciousness research. . . . Bor’s engaging and knowledgeable prose, liberally sprinkled with personal vignettes and coupled with a knack for explaining complex concepts in everyday language, make this a book well worth reading.”

Scientific American Mind
“Bor manages to pack a great deal of information… into a small book. He presents a sweeping overview of how the brain evolved, from the primordial soup to present day, and argues that consciousness could actually be generated in nonbiological substrates such as computers. . . . [An] intriguing perspective to our growing understanding of how the human mind works."

Nature
“As scientific enterprises go, cracking consciousness is up there with deciphering dark matter. Neuroscientist Daniel Bor dives into the conundrum with relish. . . . Intriguing arguments abound.”

Science News
“Bor’s knack for bolstering personal examples with laboratory studies makes this a thought-provoking read. His ideas are tantalizing.”

Times Higher Education Supplement
The Ravenous Brain … offers a meaningful explanation of what we do in trying to find meaning in everything. And what we do mentally (in other words, cerebrally) is what we are: conscious – too conscious – beings…. The Ravenous Brain’s theoretical claims have the potential to escape the popular science box and enter the real world of wet cognitive neuroscience. I hope it happens, and I hope Bor writes more books.”

Kirkus Reviews
“[A] lively look at what research is revealing about consciousness and a view of some of the ethical implications of recent findings about the brain’s ‘ravenous appetite for wisdom.’ . . . Bor keeps general readers in mind, making challenging subject matter entertaining by peppering his narrative with personal anecdotes, imaginative thought experiments and probing research studies. . . . An enthusiastic report from the front lines of cognitive science designed to pique the interest of nonscientists.”

Publishers Weekly
“Though others have capably presented the relationship between brain and mind, and the functions of various portions of the brain, Bor does it so effectively that the material remains fresh. . . . Bor balances neuroscience with comparative biology, and philosophy with psychology while writing in a fully engaging conversational style.”

John Duncan, Medical Research Council, Cambridge, and author of How Intelligence Happens
“In his presentation of the modern science of consciousness, Daniel Bor is luminous, charming and at the same time deep and original.  He is that rare combination—a genuine scientist who knows his stuff and a writer in love with words.”

Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of Cambridge, and author of The Science of Evil
“Daniel Bor takes on the most challenging of topics, the nature of conscious experience, bringing to bear his unique combination of personal motivation (from having witnessed the psychologically disabling effects of his father’s stroke), his deep knowledge of philosophy, and his everyday experience as a cognitive neuroscientist. In so doing, he brings consciousness down to earth, taking it apart to make it scientifically tractable. He has provided a valuable service to those in the separate fields of philosophy and neuroscience by his highly readable integration of these fields.”

Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology, Wellcome Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, and author of Making up the Mind
“Reading books about the science of consciousness I am often left with the feeling that our mental life is some kind of unnecessary froth that arises by magic. This book is refreshingly different. Here, at last, consciousness is seen in the light of evolution and is treated as something that is intensely practical and useful.”

Elaine Fox, Professor of Psychology, University of Essex, and author of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain
“Weaving the personal and the scientific, The Ravenous Brain is a wonderful exposé of the science behind our consciousness.”

Adrian Owen, Professor, The Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario
“Bor serves up the real science as effortlessly as he describes his own experiences and thoughts. If you’ve ever thought about consciousness, then you’ll love this account of the ‘hard problem’ in all its guises. And if you’ve never thought about consciousness, then this is where you should start.”

About the Author

Daniel Bor is a research fellow at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science and the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex. Previously he spent more than a decade working as a cognitive neuroscientist in the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge. Bor lives in Cambridge, England.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046502047X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465020478
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the release of so many books on the brain, consciousness, and neuroscience these days, it is a bit difficult to decide which one to choose. That said, this is definitely one of my top picks; there are three main reasons why I would recommend this book by Daniel Bor. First, the writing is superb. Secondly, Bor did an excellent job of hitting the high points in the long history of Philosophy of Mind. Thirdly, I really admired the due regard Bor has given to Evolution and the critical role that evolution has played in shaping the way our brain really works. I believe this book is surely an all-around top pick when contrasted with several books on the brain, such as: Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, or Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions.

Below are some of my favorite quotes:
"This book is shamelessly about the science of consciousness. Every chapter except this one [Chapter 1] will explore the evolutionary background and psychological and neural mechanisms of our own experiences.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are neuroscience books of carefully cited studies and case histories, like V. S. Ramachandran's The Tell-Tale Brain. And there are more speculative and controversial books like David Eagleman's Incognito. This book leans more towards the speculative, as a kind of Neuroscience 101. There is one chapter on the philosophy of consciousness, one chapter on the evolution of life on earth, etc. The writing style is meant to be popular, not scientific.
Those qualities might turn some readers away, while attracting others. I thought the ideas explored were fun and intriguing, and always entertaining. But it might be too light and fanciful for some more serious students of the topic.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are even remotely interested in the human brain and what makes us conscious creatures, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It really is outstanding.

This book has Amazon's "Search Inside" feature and many pages of this book are available for preview. Please take advantage of this and review the table of contents and browse through the available pages.

I have read a lot of books on human psychology, the brain, and neuroscience, and without question this is one of my favorites. The writing is excellent and the author provides a good overview of how science has begun to identify the way brains produce consciousness. The ideas within are well supported and the author builds a fairly compelling argument. You simply will not go wrong with this book.

Very highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Daniel Bor's "The Ravenous Brain" is an excellent book that explains various processes within neuroscience in a clear, imaginative and humorous manner. Bor explains the emergence and existence of consciousness by looking at various backgrounds and sources, including evolution theory and the current groundbreaking research within the field of neuroscience. Along the way, he covers everything from subliminal messages and concussions to sleep, mental illness and even meditation. This book is not only ambitious, but also daring; yet most of all, it is absorbing and thoroughly entertaining.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is written by lucid scientist who proposes an important relationship between the Darwinian Evolutionary paradigm and the importance of acquiring a faithful conception of the objective world. At all levels of observation, from molecules to Homo Sapiens, the self-organizing entities attempt to get a picture of their environment in order to survive. In human brains, this same principle translates into the pursuits of knowledge and in particular in the scientific method. Individuals who have a ravenous hunger for information and understanding are a representative example.
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This is probably the best book I've read this year. Bor's writing style is effortless and draws you in. There were moments when I couldn't put the book down. The material, as presented by Bor, was engrossing. This is how a popular-level science book should be written.

As to the content of 'The Ravenous Brain,' Bor offers up some novel (to me at least) approaches to understanding consciousness. It's all about information processing. Our brains evolved as a means to integrate information from our senses, find meaningful and useful patterns, and use that information to our advantage. Bor's view of consciousness boils down to our brain's ability to pick and choose those aspects of our environment that are most useful to us, and then to chunk that useful information from working, short-term memory and store it for us to use in the future. This allows us to innovate and look at situations in new ways.

We are just now coming to understand at a deep level what it means for consciousness to exist and what that even means. From what we're coming to understand, consciousness isn't some black and white thing, where you either have it or you don't. On the other hand, there seems to be a spectrum of consciousness, with humans sitting at the top. This has some ethical implications we all need to take seriously.

Bor at many times in the book offers up new lines of, as he sees it, fruitful research. Since the technology to study the brain and its mechanisms is only now coming to light, Bor makes sure to let the reader know where the evidence is tentative and where new avenues need to be explored. This is ever the case when Bor explores mental illness and its relation to consciousness.

'The Ravenous Brain' has given me some new insights into how our brains work and I am ever so grateful for it. Even though the story of consciousness is nowhere near ending, Bor offers up some exciting and all-too-needed insights into the workings of our mind.
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