Your Brain, Explained

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Jul 2020

Member Reviews

Written by a neuroscientist, this book explains how the human brains work - and the conditions that cause it not to function properly. In addition to just providing facts, the author also gives tips on how to deal with or even avoid certain mental issues (such as insomnia). Fascinating read and very enjoyable.
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Some of the fantastic things the brain does that we rely on to survive (fear, memory, sleep, language, sadness, pain, pleasure, movement, vision) and – frankly – take for granted are divided into chapters and then clearly discussed often using examples of famous patients whose experiences have allowed doctors and scientists to discover how things can all go horribly wrong. Long held beliefs are being shown to need further clarification and researchers are realizing the brain has many tricks and mysteries up its sleeves – so to speak. There’s what we know, what we know we don’t know, and the unknown unknown.  

I think you managed to avoid presenting the information in either too technical terms or conversely dumbing things down. It’s complex stuff, sure, but written with elegant simplicity and some nifty diagrams. You’ve made this informative and – better still – fun. It’s also timely in many ways as chapters are linked to current medical issues confounding us – memory with Alzheimer’s, pleasure with the opioid addiction, movement with Parkinson’s, and why not feeling either pain or fear can be bad things for humans. Knowledge will increase or be changed as we learn more about this fantastic organ we rely so heavily on but this is a darn good introduction to begin understanding what we know today. B
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The author wrote a book about brain function that is easy to understand for anyone that reads it, as he wrote in simple to understand terms. The information he presented was really interesting, as well!
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An easy to digest book about neuroscience.  Each chapter is a different subject (fear, memory, attention) and discusses the brain processes relating to it as well as disorders that can be caused by a problem in those areas of the brain.  I enjoyed this.  It was interesting and informative.  Four stars.
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I absolutely enjoyed this book. As a nurse specializing in Neurology, this book will always remain to be a resource for me. It is a read that I feel even non - medical would love to read and learn from. This book covers every detail of the functioning of the brain and I thought that it thoroughly explained the functionality of this very complex organ. The topics covered in the Chapters are: Fear and the Amygdala, Memory and Alzheimer's, Sleep, Language and the Wernicke, Sadness and the Limbic System, Movement and the motor cortex and cerebellum, Vision, Pleasure and dopamine, Pain and Attention. The chapters begin with real life examples and case studies, latest research and even debunking some myths. I feel that the book is well organized and I appreciated the pictures that were added to help explain the location in the brain. This was definitely not a one sitting type of a read and it does get complex and some topics more difficult. I find that I did need to read this in small chunks and took plenty of notes. Again, this is a great resource and good to read through in the beginning and then go back to further understand each area of the topics presented. Thank you for writing such a thorough review about a very amazing and complex organ.

Thank you to NetGalley, Nicholas Brealey Pub and author Marc Dingman for the copy of this amazing book.
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The first thing that I liked about this book is its plan which is reflected all too well in the Contents. The discussion of a single ‘subject’ brain is divided into different chapters, with each chapter focused on a particular emotion/concept/activity. Thus, we start with fear, followed by memory, sleep, language, sadness, movement, vision, pleasure, pain,  and finally attention.

Each chapter is further divided into small, manageable sections, with each section devoted to a particular aspect of the topic. Marc always begins his discussion by citing a real-life example of any person who had had particular experiences. He draws your attention to the interesting and important aspects of the case at hand. Then he explains the case in terms of latest research findings. In this way, he starts with very easy to understand case study, makes you comfortable with the issue at hand, and then slowly builds up the story and introduces the various complexities of the subject to you. But as soon as he finds that the discussion is getting too serious and involved, he ends the discussion. By that time you are already familiar with the basic problem and the science behind it. If you are interested, you can explore more on that subject on internet, or refer to books on that subject — the writer has given full references at the end of the book.

The structure of the brain and the exact location of any particular region is indicated by proper diagrams. However, after few chapters, the information load becomes difficult to handle and you need to look back at previous pages to compare the present discussion to that presented earlier. This is easy in a paperback, but might be troublesome in Kindle. So I advise the reader to make use of bookmarks extensively. But the best approach would be to read the book with a notebook and pen in your hand. Keep making notes of the various diagrams and discussions. This would definitely enrich your experience.

One suggestion to the writer and publisher:- adding one complete diagram with labels indicating various regions of the brain would help. Though individual regions are introduced one by one in the book — and it is indeed justified so as not to overwhelm the reader — after some time the information content becomes too large to remember, so that the reader has to keep flipping back the pages. In the same way, regions like amygdala and hypothalamus are introduced and explained adequately, and quite understandably the terms are simply used later throughout the book. However, if the reader is going through the book very slowly, which is quite common for science, popular science and non-fiction books, they may have difficulty recalling what the particular region was about. In this case also, the readers would require to go back to the page where it was introduced. In Kindle format, I do not see any way out. However, in paperback format, a summary diagram can be provided. One way to do this is to devote two pages after the Contents and before the first chapter. A diagram of the brain with different regions labelled can be presented on the right hand side page and a complete list of the various regions, and the various roles they play can be given on the left page. This would make it much easier for the reader to go through the book.

At some places, the book indeed becomes too difficult to follow e.g., the last few pages of the first two chapters (fear and memory). In few other instances, the discussion becomes too long than is perhaps required, leading to the reader losing thread of the discussion e.g., the discussion on serotonin and dopamine. In fact, occasionally the writer himself acknowledges the involved and complicated nature of the subject. I understand that the subject itself is quite complicated and the writer has indeed done a good job of simplifying to a great extent. That the description is still very difficult shows the complexity of the subject and not the inadequacy of the writer. Still, the writer could have used analogies to explain the complicated theories. In fact, he does utilize such means occasionally. For example, to illustrate the different stages of sleep in the discussion Measuring sleep with the EEG,  he gives examples of people in an auditorium engaged in conversation and of chanting by Gregorian monks. I agree that giving analogy for each and every concept is impractical, but for the more complex concepts, this method could have been further used. Note that most of these concepts and the terms noted in preceding paragraph must be trivial and elementary for researchers working in the field of neuroscience. However, for the people who are not familiar with this field, following such discussion and remembering the names could be an uphill task. And anyhow, neuroscientists would not read this book, as most probably they do not need it. Instead, laypersons would be more interested in this work, more so for the growing interest in the field among the community. And it is these readers that the book should strive to address.

My opinion? Ratings by different critics would differ. As I said, this book is a mixed bag, with certain sections very easy to follow and some very difficult. However, one thing is certain — after you have finished reading this book, you would be better informed and feel glad at having learned something new and useful. You would wonder how could you take this most important part of your body for granted. No, this book doesn’t teach you everything on this subject, but it  will certainly give you a solid, reliable and intelligent foundation. After that, all those newspaper and TV reports on neuroscience research would start making sense to you.

But yes, you the reader will also have to put in some effort. You cannot simply lie back and hope that all the knowledge would seep into your mind like vitamin D from sunlight. You cannot, and it means absolutely cannot, read this book while going to sleep. It is not very difficult to follow; however, you need to stay alert, active and attentive. The advantages are not just academic in nature; in fact, certain sections e.g., usage of electronic devices, effects of exercise and caffeine, understanding depression and addiction could be immediately used to modify your lifestyle.

I would recommend this book to my colleagues and friends, and specially to the students in my group.
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What a wonderful book. Perfect for a layman like me to understand without being dumbed down like pop psychology usually does.

Two things that stand out:
1) The brain is not a simple organ. And it is ignorant to say that one part of the brain is responsible for one particular thing. It is a complex web and multiple parts of the brain are responsible for everything. So, depression isn't just a lack of serotonin, dopamine is not just the 'pleasure' neurotransmitter, amygdalae are not the fear center and so on.

2) What we know about the brain is a very small sub-section of things going on in the brain. Diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's will only be able to be treated when we understand what is happening much better. We either overestimate or underestimate, accurate guesses are far less common in neuroscience.

I also loved the stories. The author shares a lot of cases and then explains the concept. The stories made this book interesting. I wasn't bored once and I read this in one sitting, a stupendous feat considering that I am not a science student.

The organization of the chapters was well-made. Instead of talking about different parts of the brain and their functions, we talked about the major functions (like vision, attention, movement, learning, etc.) and then the brain areas that impact their functioning. It was much easier to grasp the text because of this organization structure.

All in all, good job. Well researched and well written. Certainly makes me want to pick up more such books.

I received a free copy of the book from NetGalley.
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This book is a fun read that is a good starting place for young readers that wish to learn about the human brain. You will learn about memory from sea slugs with their siphon and gill as well as many other interesting tales. Again, I recommend this book for teens who have an interest in brain science.
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This is a must read for anyone who wants to start on a path to better learn the workings of the human brain. I would especially recommend it to people who, like myself, are involved in computer science and artificial intelligence.
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This is an absolutely fascinating book full of so much information that my digital copy is a mass of highlights and my notes section a total mess.  I will list all the chapters as I think it's important to know how much ground is covered in this extensive book.

fear
memory
sleep
language
sadness
movement
vision
pleasure
pain
attention

Within each chapter the author covers everything I had pondered in the past, plus lots that hadn't occurred to me before - questions I had, but didn't know I had!  It is well written, in an easy to read manner and doesn't come over as textbooky.  There are illustrations throughout which help bring the concepts to life.  I learnt a great deal more about things I had some knowledge of, but it's the new-to-me info that had my jaw dropping repeatedly.  I will now forever annoy people by telling them about alien hand syndrome and Anton‑Babinski syndrome!

I found every chapter both fascinating and enlightening, the two that were of particular interest to me were sleep and vision.  I will definitely be returning to this book again and again.

The only downside for me personally, which won't bother everyone, is the mentions of experimentation on animals.  I skipped these sections, so will probably have missed some things but I got so much from the rest of the information that I am not bothered.

For anyone interested in how the brain works, or brain conditions, or how things like optical delusions work, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  Definitely my favourite non fiction book if 2019 so far.

This book is published on 17 September.  I received an eArc from the publisher via Netgalley, but this review is entirely unbiased and the words are my own.
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Your Brain, Explained explains almost everything you could possibly want to know about your brain. Easy to understand and informative.
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Dingman has written a book that introduces the current state of neurosciene and what we know about the brain to readers that have no science or neuroscience background. The book is divided into ten chapters that cover a different function of the brain:  fear; memory; sleep; language; sadness; movement; vision; pleasure; pain; and attention.  Each chapter includes case studies, a brief summary of the function and specific area of the brain involved in that function and how that function was determined (i.e. experimental results), and a brief discussion of what happens when things go wrong in that section of the brain (e.g. Alzheimer's disease).  The writing style is straight-forward with minimal technical jargon, which is explained and illustrated where necessary.  The subject matter is interesting.  However, I felt the book was somewhat dull (and rather superficial) and didn't convey the excitement the author felt about the subject.      

NOTE:  As a bonus, Dingman has a Youtube series (2-Minute Neuroscience) for additional information.
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4 stars. I really enjoyed reading this informative, well written book and the  author is clearly very knowledgeable about the subject of the brain. It would be a great starter book for anyone interested in the topic but will also appeal to avid readers of books about the brain, psychology and neuroscience. I highly recommend this one. 

Thanks kindly to Netgalley, author and publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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