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Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

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From the author of How Emotions Are Made, a myth-busting primer on the brain in the tradition of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.   Have you ever wondered why you have a brain? Let renowned neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett demystify that big gray blob between your ears. In seven short essays (plus a bite-sized story about how brains From the author of How Emotions Are Made, a myth-busting primer on the brain in the tradition of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.   Have you ever wondered why you have a brain? Let renowned neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett demystify that big gray blob between your ears. In seven short essays (plus a bite-sized story about how brains evolved), this slim, entertaining, and accessible collection reveals mind-expanding lessons from the front lines of neuroscience research. You’ll learn where brains came from, how they’re structured (and why it matters), and how yours works in tandem with other brains to create everything you experience. Along the way, you’ll also learn to dismiss popular myths such as the idea of a “lizard brain” and the alleged battle between thoughts and emotions, or even between nature and nurture, to determine your behavior.   Sure to intrigue casual readers and scientific veterans alike, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is full of surprises, humor, and important implications for human nature—a gift of a book that you will want to savor again and again.  


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From the author of How Emotions Are Made, a myth-busting primer on the brain in the tradition of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.   Have you ever wondered why you have a brain? Let renowned neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett demystify that big gray blob between your ears. In seven short essays (plus a bite-sized story about how brains From the author of How Emotions Are Made, a myth-busting primer on the brain in the tradition of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.   Have you ever wondered why you have a brain? Let renowned neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett demystify that big gray blob between your ears. In seven short essays (plus a bite-sized story about how brains evolved), this slim, entertaining, and accessible collection reveals mind-expanding lessons from the front lines of neuroscience research. You’ll learn where brains came from, how they’re structured (and why it matters), and how yours works in tandem with other brains to create everything you experience. Along the way, you’ll also learn to dismiss popular myths such as the idea of a “lizard brain” and the alleged battle between thoughts and emotions, or even between nature and nurture, to determine your behavior.   Sure to intrigue casual readers and scientific veterans alike, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is full of surprises, humor, and important implications for human nature—a gift of a book that you will want to savor again and again.  

30 review for Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

  1. 4 out of 5

    NAT.orious reads ☾

    3 STARS ★★★✩✩ This book is for you if… you’re not the kind of science reader that wants his texts to be overly sensational. You will still notice that the author tries to excite her readers with some magnificent facts. ⤐ Overall. Disclaimer: I really want to be blown away by science books. I don't expect to be enlightened to the point of ascension, I just thoroughly enjoy having fun facts to randomly mention when I'm socialising. This book was not quite what I was looking for but still good 3 STARS ★★★✩✩ This book is for you if… you’re not the kind of science reader that wants his texts to be overly sensational. You will still notice that the author tries to excite her readers with some magnificent facts. ⤐ Overall. Disclaimer: I really want to be blown away by science books. I don't expect to be enlightened to the point of ascension, I just thoroughly enjoy having fun facts to randomly mention when I'm socialising. This book was not quite what I was looking for but still good enough for a couple of hours of scientific input. Lisa mainly drew my attention to me how absolutely "pathetic" human infants are. While other species can walk within minutes of their birth and have fully developed brains, we cannot even control our own limbs. Even fully grown we are less capable of certain tasks than even simple bacteria. I also learned that all creatures share the same basic construction plan for our brain but each with different components and individual proportions. ⤐ The structure is as follows. THE HALF LESSON - Your Brain Is Not for Thinking LESSON NO 1 - You Have One Brain (Not Three) LESSON NO 2 - Your Brain Is a Network LESSON NO 3 - Little Brains Wire Themselves to Their World LESSON NO 4 - Your Brain Predicts (Almost) Everything You Do LESSON NO 5 - Your Brain Secretly Works With Other Brains LESSON NO 6 - Brains Make More than One Kind of Mind LESSON NO 7 - Our Brains Can Create Reality Epilogue Acknowledgements Appendix: The Science Behind the Science Index Author's Note _____________________ 3 STARS. Decent read that I have neither strongly positive nor negative feelings about. Some thinks irked me and thus it does not qualify as exceptional. _____________________ Many thanks to the author Lisa Feldman Barrett, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing me with this eArc in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    This little gem rekindled my interest in non-fiction and was a pleasant science "snack" to finish the year (also one of the few times I read a book that was just published, as it was randomly picked up by my boyfriend in a bookstore). Barrett explains some basic concepts about our brain and how it is responsible for human behavior in a very humorous tone, through a prose that is not only pleasant but also very easy to read. That being said, this book feels sometimes too easy, because it is clearl This little gem rekindled my interest in non-fiction and was a pleasant science "snack" to finish the year (also one of the few times I read a book that was just published, as it was randomly picked up by my boyfriend in a bookstore). Barrett explains some basic concepts about our brain and how it is responsible for human behavior in a very humorous tone, through a prose that is not only pleasant but also very easy to read. That being said, this book feels sometimes too easy, because it is clearly aimed at layman confronted with the subject for the first time, which resulted, in my opinion, in too many repetitions of the same idea through different analogies, and in an overall "baby tone" that irritated me occasionally. That plus the system chosen for the end notes (it can't be that hard or distracting for people to have footnote numbers in the text itself, can it) justifies my rating. But it does not stop me from recommending this book, especially since the author, a scientist, is not afraid of dabbling in political subjects directly related to the subject at hand, which I thought was commendable. The 7 lessons go as follows, for anyone interested: 0) Half lesson, as the author called it: Your brain is not for thinking: Your brain main function is survival. 1) You have one brain (not three): The triune brain paradigm is, at this point, just a scientific myth (yes, those exist too) 2) Your brain is a network: No specific part of the brain houses specific functions, but the whole brain performs these functioning as a super evolved and flexible network 3) Little brains wire themselves to the world: Not surprisingly, babies' brain form themselves largely with the help of outside stimuli 4) Your brain predicts (almost) everything you do: Your brain functions not reactively, but predictively, contrary to what we might think (I love this idea, unknown to me before: it's like all of us carry a seer in the top of our head, predicting the future and reacting to it, similarly to the Oracle from the Matrix) 5) Your brain secretly works with other brains: We're cooperative animals in more than one way, and sometimes we are not even aware of how we influence one another 6) Brains make more than one kind of mind: There's no universal "human mind" type, as every brain is unique and complex enough to create completely different minds and personalities for every person 7) Our brains can create reality: Our brains are also so complex, namely because of their capacity to think in abstract terms, that we created social constructs which govern our every-day life, and that we treat as if they were as real as physical reality (money, corporations, etc.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie Bruell

    Wow. I loved this book so much. It was brilliant, mind opening, hilarious, and it gently pushes the reader in so many right directions. Can’t wait to read her other book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    The Conch

    After David Eagleman's 'The Brain', it is another crispy and tasty book about brain. Author starts from evolution of brain from a simple cellular organism Amphioxi upto complex "three pound blob between ears" of human which has 128 billion neurons. The book compels readers to think about the process of seeing the world. The organ which is sitting in dark black box, named skull, how enables the viewing of multi-color universe with colorless photon. If one can not think, we call him/her idiot. By After David Eagleman's 'The Brain', it is another crispy and tasty book about brain. Author starts from evolution of brain from a simple cellular organism Amphioxi upto complex "three pound blob between ears" of human which has 128 billion neurons. The book compels readers to think about the process of seeing the world. The organ which is sitting in dark black box, named skull, how enables the viewing of multi-color universe with colorless photon. If one can not think, we call him/her idiot. By this definition, entire human race is idiot as brain's function is not thinking, rather predicting danger and helps to survive. The language is simple which makes the book more attractive to read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    I admit to having a chip on my shoulder about the tone and unintended consequences of both Barrett's previous work and she herself as its mouthpiece after reading her last book on emotions and hearing her on an Invisibilia podcast about PTSD. That emotions are culturally defined but coded singularly within each individual's brain is fascinating - however, the implication that individuals alone are and should be responsible and accountable for the long-term health implications of their emotional e I admit to having a chip on my shoulder about the tone and unintended consequences of both Barrett's previous work and she herself as its mouthpiece after reading her last book on emotions and hearing her on an Invisibilia podcast about PTSD. That emotions are culturally defined but coded singularly within each individual's brain is fascinating - however, the implication that individuals alone are and should be responsible and accountable for the long-term health implications of their emotional experiences, especially the increasing % with traumatic experiences, is not. Though the deep-seeded norm of victim mentality desperately needs to challenged and people taught how to skillfully engage and tend to their emotional health, Barrett swings too far to the other side seemingly unaware of how dangerous and tenuous the topic is in today's toxic emotional ecosystem. In other words, we can't continue to strip away social and community resources from more and more Americans, refuse to stem the tide of racial, educations, economic and social oppression and then expect all of us to grow into 'well-adjusted' adults. As social activist Nakita Valerio said in 2019 after the massacre of Muslim worshipper's in New Zealand, "Shouting "self-care" at people who actually need "community care" is how we fail people." All of this is to say that as much as I appreciate Barrett's much smaller, condensed tome on the fundamentals with which to understand the human brain, I hesitate to support her work without comment. 🤪

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shankar

    Quite an interesting read on the science behind our brains. She also debunks some of the more popular “myths” of recent history. Would recommend overall - short read and interesting too!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Why this book. Selected by a reading/discussion book I’m in, as a good follow up to Descarte’s Error. One member of our group pointed us to a Lisa Feldman Barrett Ted Talk which impressed us all, then an interview with her on youtube, and as a group, we decided then to read this book. Good idea. Summary in 3 sentences; Lisa Feldman Barrett begins with a brief explanation of the evolution of the brain from a mini-worm amphioxus 550 million years ago, through many evolutionary iterations, until on Why this book. Selected by a reading/discussion book I’m in, as a good follow up to Descarte’s Error. One member of our group pointed us to a Lisa Feldman Barrett Ted Talk which impressed us all, then an interview with her on youtube, and as a group, we decided then to read this book. Good idea. Summary in 3 sentences; Lisa Feldman Barrett begins with a brief explanation of the evolution of the brain from a mini-worm amphioxus 550 million years ago, through many evolutionary iterations, until one of evolution’s branches and sequels, led to the human brain. She then spends the next 7 1/2 chapters debunking myths about how the brain works, and instructing us in the fundamental biological processes that govern our cerebral functions. And she makes clear that understanding these functions and processes are key to understanding why we are like we are, why and how people interact with each other and their environments like they do, and she offers a few ideas for how we can use that understanding to take some steps that could help us improve our lives. My impressions. A really well done overview of the role that our brain’s biology plays in how we think, behave, and live. It is a short (125 pages), easy, enjoyable read. Professor Barrett takes some of the cutting edge insights about the human brain and mind (they are not the same) and shares them with us in language and conceptual descriptions that are easily understandable and accessible to someone with a high school education or better, but not necessarily a strong (or any) background in neuroscience or biology. She distills the insights of neuroscience and biology about the brain into insights that are useful for the rest of us. There is a lot to understand here – she presents her case simply and clearly, but the implications are mind bending. She makes clear that we ARE biological creatures and the biology of the brain that we are born with very much influences how we perceive ourselves, the world, our relationships with others, and how we live. That is such an important insight – and I’m not even altogether sure what to do with it. This book is a great primer on the brain and catalyst for reflection – as I try to understand how these insights should change and enhance my understanding of my own potential, my relationships to the people in my life and my environment, my “spirituality,” my moods, how I live. Rereading my review of Sam Harris’s book Waking Up tells me that Waking Up would be a good companion book to 7 1/2 Lessons. A few of the Key insights I got from the book: Body Budget. A new concept for me, that makes sense. One of the brain’s key functions is to manage what she call the “body budget” and the brain spends or saves our mental and physical energy, similarly to how we spend and save money. Like a muscle, we keep our brains healthy by challenging them – this develops and strengthens neuro-networks, which if not used, atrophy. Novelty, facing new challenges, learning new things strengthens the brain and its neuro-networks. The brain, like one’s physical muscles, is a “use it or lose it” organ. But a constant diet of novelty and “resilience-building” experiences without adequate rest and recuperation can create a chronic stress that is damaging to the brain. I kinda already knew this (from reading Descarte’s Error,) but LFB reinforces the point in terms that are easier for me to digest: that the brain is a complex network of inter-dependent parts that work together in mysterious ways to give us our experience, AND the rest of the body is in on the conspiracy, sending and receiving signals that are outside our consciousness. ——- A brief summary of the 7 1/2 lessons – each Lesson gets its own chapter. The Half-Lesson – your brain is not for thinking: this chapter walks us thru how the brain has evolved over the last half billion years. She debunks the myth that our brain is for thinking – no, she says, its for optimizing our adaptation to our environment to help us better survive and pass our genes on to the next generation. Lesson 1: You have one brain, (not three) This chapter debunks the mythology of many metaphors about the brain. Lesson 2: Your Brain is a network: This chapter like the others elaborates on its title. She describes the “network” as integrated, functioning as a single whole, and is not separate sections functioning independently. Lesson 3: Little Brains wire themselves to their world: This chapter is about the developing brain of the baby and child. Her main point is in the title – the brain adapts itself – wires’ itself – to the world it finds itself in. Lesson 4: Your brain predicts (almost) everything you do: What we see, feel do in any situation is usually a result of predictions that our brain makes as a result of past experience. Lesson 5: Your brain secretly works with other brains: We know that we are social animals but this chapter reinforces how our social interactions actually “tune and prune” our brains and the various manifestations of this “herd instinct” we have which is built into our DNA. We adapt ourselves unconsciously in many ways to the social environment we live in, even mirroring what we see, because we need and find a connection to other people in order to live. This behavior is “choreographed” by our brains, outside of our daily awareness. Lesson 6; Brains Make More than One Kind of Mind: Interesting chapter in that it goes into the difference between “brain” and “mind.” She tells us that “…a particular human brain in a particular human body, raised and wired in a particular culture, will produce a particular kind of mind….We come into the world with a basic brain plan that can be wired in a variety of ways to construct different kinds of minds.” Lesson 7: Our brains can create reality: “We live in a world of social reality that exists only inside our human brains.”p111 “Social Reality” is unique to humans and she attributes this reality to the 5 Cs: Creativity, Communication, Copying, Cooperation, Compression. Epilogue: The Epilogue is a brief (2 page) overview, beginning with a list of 7 misunderstandings that most people have about themselves and “reality” based on misunderstanding of how the brain functions. She concludes that there is much still to learn about the brain. But first, we must understand that the structure and functions of the brain itself are the source of our human strengths and foibles, and, as she concludes, are what “make us simply, imperfectly, gloriously human.” p125. If you would like to read my complete review of this book go to: https://bobsbeenreading.wordpress.com...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Arvenig

    Hi everyone! This book is amazing! (I think it's the best book I've read on netgalley) In seven and a half lessons the author explains how our brain works and how it's different from other animals. She talks about the complexity our brain, unveiling myths that are still in our society, how the brain develops in children, its plasticity and the fact that sometimes we mistake our metaphors for knowledge... All in a simple and sometimes funny way, that keeps you entertained. In fact she uses a lot of Hi everyone! This book is amazing! (I think it's the best book I've read on netgalley) In seven and a half lessons the author explains how our brain works and how it's different from other animals. She talks about the complexity our brain, unveiling myths that are still in our society, how the brain develops in children, its plasticity and the fact that sometimes we mistake our metaphors for knowledge... All in a simple and sometimes funny way, that keeps you entertained. In fact she uses a lot of metaphors that make complex concepts very easy to understand and very light, like when she said: "in short, your brain's most important job is not thinking. It's running a little warm body that has become very, very complicated" If the brain intrigues you (even if you don't know anything about it) I definitely recommend this book! I also can't wait to read more books by this author.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tretiakov Alexander

    Can't say that I learned a lot. Also, even though the author is saying she is trying not to mix science with politics -- she does, which I think detracts from her message. Can't say that I learned a lot. Also, even though the author is saying she is trying not to mix science with politics -- she does, which I think detracts from her message.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee Bree

    Do you know why brains evolved? What their primary purpose was, or is, in nature? Do you know why they came to exist in simple organisms? In the animal species? Within the human body? As it turns out, though some of us may find this news surprising, it wasn't - and isn't - to think. *time to roll the dice and try again* Brains evolved for a different reason entirely. One that is far simpler, far more primal, than we care to imagine: survival. In fact, that right there, is the first major misconcep Do you know why brains evolved? What their primary purpose was, or is, in nature? Do you know why they came to exist in simple organisms? In the animal species? Within the human body? As it turns out, though some of us may find this news surprising, it wasn't - and isn't - to think. *time to roll the dice and try again* Brains evolved for a different reason entirely. One that is far simpler, far more primal, than we care to imagine: survival. In fact, that right there, is the first major misconception, the first half lesson, Feldman Barrett dispels in this book before taking readers on an informative but concise overview of the brain and its chief functions. As she continues to bust brain myth after brain myth along the way, I might add. What's nice is that the scientific explanations to be found in these pages are not overwhelming. They're not bogged down by unpronounceable neuro-terminology or exhaustive detail that's liable to give its layperson-reader a migraine, either, which I'm sure most of you will be delighted to hear. (No brain freezes in sight, yay!) The author makes sure to attach relatable analogies and metaphors to the principles she's describing instead, making them easy for anyone without a science background to comprehend. Everything she presents is divulged in simple, bite-sized morsels. Most of the lessons only begin to scratch the surface of the brain's many facets and complexities, especially in humans, but that's kind of the whole point, you know what I mean? This is supposed to be a starting place. A summary. It's a minimalist introduction to all things Brain, so don't go into it thinking it will ascend you into starry-eyed Enlightenment or Information Density, because it won't. The brevity prohibits it, and do you know what? That's perfectly fine. It's just right, exactly what you need. For my own part, I think this book's aim may be to expose and unravel facts about the brain you may already know in some capacity, while also enticing you to apply them in a broader context. That's what it did for me, in any case. I couldn't stop mulling. Reflecting. Questioning. I found myself struck in thought - quite a few times - about how our brains can do things such as suppress traumatic or emotional memories, alter physical reality to fit our social needs/desires, or mask pain/symptoms from illnesses like cancer for extended periods of time. All of which makes sense if you think about the brain's main evolutionary focus: enabling our continual survival. Reading this prompted me to think through some of those things, and I loved it for that. Anyway, definitely worth a perusal if you're at all into brain learnin' like me! 3.5 stars Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Mikulsky

    This is a quick and simple book for anyone who wants to better understand how the brain and body works. This website is also a wonderful resource: www.sevenandahalflessons.com Check out the organization Seeds of Peace that brings together young people for cultures that in serious conflict. Aristotle believed the brain was a cooling chamber for the heart, sort of like the radiator in your car. Left hemisphere = Logic; Right = Creative. System 1 = Quick; System 2 = Slower, more thoughtful. Metaphors This is a quick and simple book for anyone who wants to better understand how the brain and body works. This website is also a wonderful resource: www.sevenandahalflessons.com Check out the organization Seeds of Peace that brings together young people for cultures that in serious conflict. Aristotle believed the brain was a cooling chamber for the heart, sort of like the radiator in your car. Left hemisphere = Logic; Right = Creative. System 1 = Quick; System 2 = Slower, more thoughtful. Metaphors by Daniel Kahneman. “In the real world, facts have some probability of being true or false in a particular context.” Henry Gee says in his book The Accidental Species, “science is a process of quantifying doubt.” Scientists work hard to avoid ideology, but people are sometimes guided by belief more than data. Many claims there are 85B neurons in your brain, yet your brain is a network of 128B neurons. The difference is how the neurons are counted – stereological methods which employ probability and statistics (128B) vs. isotropic fractionator which is simpler and quicker (85B). The brain is also made up of 69B other cells that are not neurons, called glial cells – that prevent chemical leaks. There are over 500T neuron-to-neuron connections. It’s like the air-travel system being a network of about 17k airports around the world. Your brain is constantly under construction and its network changes continuously. Neurons die, neurons are born. Connection become stronger when they fire together and weaker when they don’t. Your brain wiring is bathed in chemicals (e.g. glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine). These chemicals make it easier or harder for signals to pass across synapses. Some of these chemicals can also act on other neurotransmitters to dial up or dial down their effects (i.e. neuromodulators). Your brain network may even extend into your gut and intestines where scientists have found microbiomes that communicate with your brain via neurotransmitters. Myelin is the coating (or like insulation around electrical wires) around the trunk-like axon. Thicker coatings make signals travel faster. No neuron has a single psychological function, though a neuron may be more likely to contribute to some functions than others. Any neuron can do more than one thing. Degeneracy in the brain means that your actions and experiences can be created in multiple ways. In the 1960s, the Communist government of Romania outlawed most contraception and abortion. The President wanted to expand the population and become more of a world power. A huge increase in births, more children than many families could afford, led to hundreds of thousands of children sent to orphanages. Many were appallingly mistreated where their social needs went unmet. Babies were warehoused in rows of cribs with little simulation or social interaction. Nobody cuddled these babies, played with them, or sang to them. They were ignored. Consequently, the Romanian orphans grew up intellectually impaired, problem learning language, difficulty concentrating and resisting distractions, trouble controlling themselves; their bodies were stunted; their brains developed smaller than average. Childhood poverty is a colossal waste of human opportunity. Painter Marcel Duchamp said, “an artist does only 50% of the work in creating it. The remaining 50% is in the viewer’s brain.” You brain actively constructs your experiences. Your day-to-day experience is a carefully controlled hallucination. Freedom always comes with responsibility. “Sometimes we’re responsible for things not because they’re our fault, but because we’re the only ones who can change them.” “As the owner of a predicting brain, you have more control over your actions and experiences than you might think and more responsibility than you might want. But if you embrace this responsibility, think about the possibilities. What might your life be like? What kind of person might you become?” We live longer is we have close, supportive relationships with other people. We also get sick and die earlier when we persistently feel lonely. You brain becomes more vulnerable to stress of all kinds. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has no more scientific validity than horoscopes and does not consistently predict job performance. The test asks you what you believe about yourself. Yet, you must observe behavior in multiple contexts.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This was a very positive and pleasant short book which challenges some of the popular metaphors about the brain and suggests a newer/better model. This is pretty much the standard belief within the field today, but the popular models haven't been updated. Specifically, the "three brains" model of Plato/Freud (where rational cognition is separate from emotions....) doesn't make sense; what does make sense is the brain as prediction engine and that it evolved due to predator/hunting behavior, and This was a very positive and pleasant short book which challenges some of the popular metaphors about the brain and suggests a newer/better model. This is pretty much the standard belief within the field today, but the popular models haven't been updated. Specifically, the "three brains" model of Plato/Freud (where rational cognition is separate from emotions....) doesn't make sense; what does make sense is the brain as prediction engine and that it evolved due to predator/hunting behavior, and that the prediction engine is so good that actions can be made before sensations are perceived, so a lot of things are retconned back into order. I think the author went a bit far in challenging the traditional models (which do have validity in predicting behavior...), but it was an interesting way to think about things. The book as a whole is too much on the informal side for my taste, but I think a lot of other books about the brain are far too unapproachable for the general audience, so it's probably a good balance, especially while keeping the book pretty short.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Owen Stephens

    This was a beautiful little science treat. Written as a series of 7 essays that flow seamlessly into one book made it incredibly digestible, I call it a science treat because for a science book it wasn't overly... "sciency". With bits of humor and nods to current events that made it fun, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is capable of reaching a wide audience because of its approachability. This is awesome because the information inside is well researched and applies to everyone. It was s This was a beautiful little science treat. Written as a series of 7 essays that flow seamlessly into one book made it incredibly digestible, I call it a science treat because for a science book it wasn't overly... "sciency". With bits of humor and nods to current events that made it fun, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is capable of reaching a wide audience because of its approachability. This is awesome because the information inside is well researched and applies to everyone. It was short and concise with some beautiful nuggets of knowledge. What made this book special were the cross-disciplinary questions she brought up. A book about neuroscience raised questions in psychology, philosophy, political science, sociology, and anthropology. The book made connections that brought insight and relevance to the facts. Beautifully written and downright enjoyable. I read the whole book in one sitting and now I want more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Deedi Brown (DeediReads)

    Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is a snack of a book, a conversational, fascinating, and revelatory bundle of great metaphors on how our brains work. I read it as part of my subscription to the Next Big Idea Club, which always has great selections. I think this book does a great job of being “science for non-scientists” — it isn’t stuffy or jargony, nor is it simplified to the point of condescension. Barret does a really great job using metaphors and relating the information back to why Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is a snack of a book, a conversational, fascinating, and revelatory bundle of great metaphors on how our brains work. I read it as part of my subscription to the Next Big Idea Club, which always has great selections. I think this book does a great job of being “science for non-scientists” — it isn’t stuffy or jargony, nor is it simplified to the point of condescension. Barret does a really great job using metaphors and relating the information back to why it’s so important in real life (with some great party facts thrown in along the way.) I especially appreciated the framing of the middle couple of sections, about how our knowledge about neuroscience leads to a responsibility — for our children, for our own actions, for our habits and our futures, and for how we treat others. At about 125 pages, this one’s worth devouring in an afternoon!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adam Z

    I found the first two or three lessons to be very informative, and I enjoyed the writing style very much. The rest of the chapters mostly contained information that I have previously read in "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins, and "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari (with much greater appreciation). There was a steep decline in the writing style of those chapters, as though the author did not manage to have them properly edited and reviewed. It is a very short book, and each lesson takes around 20 min I found the first two or three lessons to be very informative, and I enjoyed the writing style very much. The rest of the chapters mostly contained information that I have previously read in "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins, and "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari (with much greater appreciation). There was a steep decline in the writing style of those chapters, as though the author did not manage to have them properly edited and reviewed. It is a very short book, and each lesson takes around 20 minutes to read. I would only recommend this book to people who haven't read about neuroscience and want an introduction to some of our modern insights about the brain.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hom Sack

    Short but with a long interesting Appendix. It is a delightful unconventional view from a neuroscientist on how the brain works. Her recent talk with Lex Fridman elaborates on the subject: Lisa Feldman Barrett: Counterintuitive Ideas About How the Brain Works | Lex Fridman Podcast #129 - YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbdRI...) Oct 4, 2020 Short but with a long interesting Appendix. It is a delightful unconventional view from a neuroscientist on how the brain works. Her recent talk with Lex Fridman elaborates on the subject: Lisa Feldman Barrett: Counterintuitive Ideas About How the Brain Works | Lex Fridman Podcast #129 - YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbdRI...) Oct 4, 2020

  17. 4 out of 5

    Felix Cederfeldt

    Really enjoyed this short gem! It was simple while being complex in explaining how our brains work and how they work individually, socially and how they can affect other brains. I guess I could compare its accessibility to Neil DeGrasse Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry". I don't really have anything to complain about; the book was funny, used interesting analogies and metaphors, explained and satisfied my curious Brain (hehe). Really enjoyed this short gem! It was simple while being complex in explaining how our brains work and how they work individually, socially and how they can affect other brains. I guess I could compare its accessibility to Neil DeGrasse Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry". I don't really have anything to complain about; the book was funny, used interesting analogies and metaphors, explained and satisfied my curious Brain (hehe).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lorenz Van

    Interesting quick read Well written, makes some controversial yet compelling points regarding how our brain works that might just change the future of several brain-related fields such as neuroscience and psychology

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Smaiz

    Awesome book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Lauren

    Love this book- the subject matter, the writing style and the author's points. The writing is excellent, the author makes complex structures and processes clear and accessible. The book is well organized, building on previous information so understanding the more complicated concepts is straightforward. Many of the things we think we understand about the brain and how it works are based on misinformation and is just plain wrong. The author takes us through the basis for the incorrect information Love this book- the subject matter, the writing style and the author's points. The writing is excellent, the author makes complex structures and processes clear and accessible. The book is well organized, building on previous information so understanding the more complicated concepts is straightforward. Many of the things we think we understand about the brain and how it works are based on misinformation and is just plain wrong. The author takes us through the basis for the incorrect information and how it needs to be corrected. Its short, sweet and to the point. thanks this was a great book to read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    If you're relatively neuro-fluent and haven't read it yet, I'd recommend picking up LFB's much more elaborate and detailed (and quite a bit longer) How Emotions Are Made instead, which despite its title is really an excellent primer on contemporary neuroscience in general. Since I teach in this field, there wasn't much here that was new to me. But its brevity here is a power - the book can serve simultaneously as an organizer or synthesis of our current state of knowledge for those who already k If you're relatively neuro-fluent and haven't read it yet, I'd recommend picking up LFB's much more elaborate and detailed (and quite a bit longer) How Emotions Are Made instead, which despite its title is really an excellent primer on contemporary neuroscience in general. Since I teach in this field, there wasn't much here that was new to me. But its brevity here is a power - the book can serve simultaneously as an organizer or synthesis of our current state of knowledge for those who already know a lot about the brain as well as an accessible introduction for people looking to start their journey. Well-written, engaging, clear. Could easily be used as a companion text in a lot of classes.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janine Oman

    This is a quicker non- fiction science read that reads more like fiction in that it doesn’t get to technical and it is a small volume that is easy to digest. Good little pearls of wisdom included.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing an ARC! _________________________________________ I don't really know what I expected from this book, probably something quite hard to understand. It was not: it was accessible, educational and super interesting! I learnt many things I didn't know at all - never heard of some of the concepts present in this book actually -; I was amazed at some lessons, for instance, the one about the triune brain, because I was convinced that it was Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing an ARC! _________________________________________ I don't really know what I expected from this book, probably something quite hard to understand. It was not: it was accessible, educational and super interesting! I learnt many things I didn't know at all - never heard of some of the concepts present in this book actually -; I was amazed at some lessons, for instance, the one about the triune brain, because I was convinced that it was true! I understood more about our species, and I absolutely adored the fact that the author acknowledges the fact that humans are not "better" than other species. She explains that our brain is just different, and that other species have, for us, super-powers that we'll never get. She brings humans closer to animals thanks to examples portraying, for instance, bees, rats or apes. I also loved the author's tone and her humour. I read the notes at the end of the book: they were more technical than the rest, but they were still great - I got some more reading to do now thanks to them! The main body of the text is quite simple to understand thanks to images, metaphors, examples and thanks to the way Lisa Feldman Barrett explains things. It's simple but effective: perfect. The book is also quite short, which can be surprising with such a subject. Even if it can feel like an introduction to people who already know these things about the brain, to me, it was a really great one, one that made me want to read more about it - and the first book of the author, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain , which is in my radar since it came out! These seven lessons were taken by a fascinated student! So, to conclude: a great book to learn more about the brain in an effective and simple way!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amit Verma

    There are so many books about brain and neuroscience. But most of them are bulky and lose track somewhere in the middle. When they enter into exhaustive details, interest of the reader wanes. This one is different. It is concise. It tells so much, but uses so little space. It is very interesting read. It starts with most prehistoric brain in small sea animals. It describes events and principles with easily understandable metaphors. It focuses in long term myths and wrong representative terms in neu There are so many books about brain and neuroscience. But most of them are bulky and lose track somewhere in the middle. When they enter into exhaustive details, interest of the reader wanes. This one is different. It is concise. It tells so much, but uses so little space. It is very interesting read. It starts with most prehistoric brain in small sea animals. It describes events and principles with easily understandable metaphors. It focuses in long term myths and wrong representative terms in neurosciences and concept of plasticity. A very good highly readable book. Somewhere at end it slips into ethics and politics which could have been best avoided. Still a very good book for busy science enthusiastic readers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cole Nesselson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. brain's main purpose is biological budgeting called allostasis. It predicts and prepares to meet needs before they arise. It uses the past to predict the future. This is what the brain evolved for: a command center to manage complex bodily systems. Its central mission is to pass on genes to the next generation. Our brain develops in the same order as other species. The difference is in the duration of manufacturing stages. Our brain has no new parts. Humans are not better because of their brains brain's main purpose is biological budgeting called allostasis. It predicts and prepares to meet needs before they arise. It uses the past to predict the future. This is what the brain evolved for: a command center to manage complex bodily systems. Its central mission is to pass on genes to the next generation. Our brain develops in the same order as other species. The difference is in the duration of manufacturing stages. Our brain has no new parts. Humans are not better because of their brains. Animals have superpowers that we dream of. They aren't inferior, just adapted to their specific environments. Rational behavior is making good body budgeting investment in a given situation. Neurons are like trees. Their bushy branches are called dendrites and receive signals from the axons or the trucks of other trees that send electrical signals through the neurons' roots that release chemicals into gaps between neurons called synapses. When existing parts of the brain reconfigure themselves and become more flexible they add complexity rather than if it were to accumulate new parts to do those tasks. remembering is really assembling. The highly complex human brain isn't the pinnacle of evolution; we are just well adapted to our environment. The brain achieves more complexity through tuning: strengthening connections between neurons with bushier dendrites and building a thick coating of myelin on the axon to increase signal transmission efficiency. The pruning process also occurs to cause some connections to weaken and die off. An embryo creates twice as many neurons as the adult brain needs, allowing the baby to be able to survive in a diverse range of environments. Nurture is important because it allows social knowledge to flow efficiently from one generation to the next. cultured inheritance. evolution doesn't have to encode all our wiring instructions in genes. Our nature requires nurture. We see the present through the lens of the past(memories). The brain combines information from the outside and inside your head to produce what you sense. Neurons don't do a complete job of processing all the info. from the surrounding. Analogy: Artists do 50% of the work, the other half is the beholders share. Brains predict: if you're thirsty and drink water there is an immediate quenched sensation but it actually takes 20 minutes for the water to hit the bloodstream: example of classical or Pavlovian conditioning. If the prediction is confirmed by sense data then what you feel in your body in that moment is completely constructed in your head. Brains aren't wired for accuracy, they're wired to keep us alive. Your brain is wired to prepare for action first. The action's of today become the brain's predictions for tomorrow. Those predictions automatically drive future action. Things that require effort today become automatic tomorrow. We can choose what we expose ourselves to. It's neurologically taxing for a brain to deal with things that are hard to predict. We prefer echo chambers. Words are powerful. Brain regions that process language also control the insides of your body. Your nervous system is bound with the behavior of other humans. Plasticity is the quality of a brain to change after new experiences. Humans engage in the co-regulation of their body budgets and brain structure. When people learn to trust one another, they put less burden on their body budgets, saving resources. Chronic loneliness- without someone to help regulate your body budget is bad for longevity. There are many different human minds because we are all raised in different environments and with a different culture. We come into the world with a basic brain plan that can be wired in a variety of ways to construct a different minds. This variety is crucial to the survival of any species. There are many human natures. Affect is the mood or the summary of what's going on in your body. Acculturation is adapting to unfamiliar cultures, an extremely taxing process. A uniquely human quality is the forming of a social reality (opposite of physical reality) with numerous social constructs. This reality blends into the physical one for us. If the wine is expensive it tastes better to us. Humans can use compression or sensory integration( summaries of summaries) to allow for abstraction. This means we have the ability to derive meaning from symbols and see in terms of function instead of merely physical form.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Lisa Feldman Barrett's 7 1/2 Lessons About the Brain is a slim little volume, and timely (more on that in a minute); probably if you haven't spent the last 3-4 years reading all of the neuroscience you could get your hands on, it's more interesting and more informative that what I may make it seem because I have read so much on the brain these past few years. That said, it's well-written, and owing to the structure (each lesson is a chapter) and clean, concise writing, it's a fairly quick read. Lisa Feldman Barrett's 7 1/2 Lessons About the Brain is a slim little volume, and timely (more on that in a minute); probably if you haven't spent the last 3-4 years reading all of the neuroscience you could get your hands on, it's more interesting and more informative that what I may make it seem because I have read so much on the brain these past few years. That said, it's well-written, and owing to the structure (each lesson is a chapter) and clean, concise writing, it's a fairly quick read. Having been published in 2020, the science is certainly the leading edge of what neurologists and others know; I'm heartened to read that both the resiliency and plasticity of the brain are ever-greater than has been understood in the past (which was ever-greater than previously thought, which was ever-greater, and so you get the idea). In terms of getting the most out of plasticity, Feldman Barrett details the neurological advantages of acculturation, which is "an extreme version of plasticity." As acculturation occurs when we are thrust into unfamiliar cultures and most respond to even the most basic interactions - such as how to greet one another, or navigating personal space and hand gestures - on the fly, it's fair to say that Feldman Barrett makes the case that travel is neurologically helpful. The book does not include any studies on the brains structures of those who have experienced such acculturation as compared to those who have not - and such studies may not even exist - but it doesn't seem a bridge too far to imagine that they exist....and that such differences may further explain the challenges various groups of people have in understanding one another. Speaking of which..... I mentioned the "timeliness" of this book: Feldman Barrett speaks to the neurological underpinning of why humans prefer to exist in an echo chamber, the advantages and disadvantages of which are only too apparent these days, but - in no small part because of how our brains are wired - increasingly difficult to escape. As Feldman Barrett notes, "your nervous system is bound up with the behavior of other humans, for better or for worse." It is in the closing pages that she strikes at the heart of the matter, which is the ability of the collective mind to create and shape social reality. "Social reality may be one of our greatest achievements but it's also a weapon we can wield against each other. It is vulnerable to being manipulated. Democracy itself is social reality." Truer words...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jammie Poon

    An interesting book but it would be nice if the book includes more studies and detailed explanations. Maybe the title of the book raised the bar and I am expecting some more studies and evidence. For example, on the metaphor of emotional and rational brain, I read about this in some other books on psychology and neuroscience and from the MRI brain, studies quoted and my personal experience, I found the metaphor very convincing. However, in this book, nothing similar was provided, but just the co An interesting book but it would be nice if the book includes more studies and detailed explanations. Maybe the title of the book raised the bar and I am expecting some more studies and evidence. For example, on the metaphor of emotional and rational brain, I read about this in some other books on psychology and neuroscience and from the MRI brain, studies quoted and my personal experience, I found the metaphor very convincing. However, in this book, nothing similar was provided, but just the conclusion. The Book in 3 Sentences 1. Our brain is not for thinking, but for body budgeting (manage allostasis) , and our brain not only manage our own body budgeting, but also the others. 2. It is so complex that we describe it by metaphors and mistake them for actual brain structures, for example the metaphor of lizard brain or emotional brain vs. rational brain, while it works as a network. 3. Our brains process the massive amount of information by compressing and summarising it, that allows us to think abstractly, create social reality and our memory and experience also allows us to make predictions on what would happen and act accordingly (The classic conditioning experiment) How the Book Changed Me / thoughts - *'If we don't use it, you lose it'* is for real. Plasticity is ongoing throughout life, especially when we were infants because we were born with more neuron connections that we need. By tuning ( strengthening connections between neurons that we use a lot and are important) and pruning ( discarding the connections that we seldom use), we reserve the energy maintaining those connections and are able to make room for more useful connections to be tuned and to learn something new. - Taking care of an infant's need, the caregivers help the baby's brain maintain it's body budget. If done effectively, the baby's brain is free to tune and prune itself to perform healthy body budgeting. When an infant is crying for a long time and you don’t check in regularly, her brain may learn that the world is unreliable and unsafe while her body budget goes untended. - We are social animals that we regulate one another's body budgets - our family, friends and even strangers play a role in our body budgeting, and thus, out brain structure My Top 3 Quotes - But we can say what is your brain’s most important job. It’s not rationality. Not emotion. Not imagination, or creativity, or empathy. Your brain’s most important job is to control your body—to manage allostasis—by predicting energy needs before they arise so you can efficiently make worthwhile movements and survive. - Well-tuned connections are more efficient at carrying and processing information than poorly tuned ones and are therefore more likely to be reused in the future.Meanwhile, less-used connections weaken and die off. - Part of being a social species, it turns out, is that we regulate one another’s body budgets—the ways in which our brains manage the bodily resources we use every day.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Seven and a Half Lessons about the Brain is an informative, thought provoking, and readable book. Written as a collection of essays that walk you through how the brain has evolved, how it grows, and how it worked in the context of how we perceive and react to the world. The book also addresses common, pervasive, misconceptions about the brain (no, we don’t have a “lizard brain” and our brain has many of the same parts as other mammals, just in a different proportion, and it’s not just nature vs Seven and a Half Lessons about the Brain is an informative, thought provoking, and readable book. Written as a collection of essays that walk you through how the brain has evolved, how it grows, and how it worked in the context of how we perceive and react to the world. The book also addresses common, pervasive, misconceptions about the brain (no, we don’t have a “lizard brain” and our brain has many of the same parts as other mammals, just in a different proportion, and it’s not just nature vs nurture: they interact.) . Learning what is not true was as interesting as learning what is true. Each essay is factual -- with the occasional identified opinion. There are notes at the end of the book that get into some details and also refer you to the companion web site for more information, including citations. This makes for a good casual quick read that allows you to go deeper when you want. The end notes are about 1/3 of the book the are also an informative and entertaining read. One recurring theme is how we tends to use metaphor and models even as we discuss the brain. Unfortunately we take these too literally, as demonstrated by the persistence of the lizard brain concept, and more ominously, how we form and act on negative views of other groups. Along the way of discussing the mechanics of the brain, the author veers into politics and society issues at times, which isn’t unreasonable. Humans. Are social creatures and our brain influences how we perceive things, and is influenced by the world around us and how others act, and you’d miss a lot if you didn’t understand how the way the brain works impacts how we interact with it, and the people in in. At one point, a discussion of how we can reframe our responses to negative events, I found myself recalling a section from Mans Search for Meaning, where Frankel talks about similar ideas. Short, but informative and detailed, and dense but readable 7 1/2 ideas about the brain is a good book to read if you want to think about how we think.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is an excellent quick read on the current state of knowledge of our amazing brain, by psychology professor and emotions researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett. The foundation of this set of essays is Barrett's belief that our brain evolved to do one primary thing: "budget" the resources of our body. Its primary mission is to feed us when we're hungry and thirsty, keep us out of danger and otherwise enhance our survival. All of the brain's other impressive capabilities are fringe benefits, if you wi This is an excellent quick read on the current state of knowledge of our amazing brain, by psychology professor and emotions researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett. The foundation of this set of essays is Barrett's belief that our brain evolved to do one primary thing: "budget" the resources of our body. Its primary mission is to feed us when we're hungry and thirsty, keep us out of danger and otherwise enhance our survival. All of the brain's other impressive capabilities are fringe benefits, if you will, of that central purpose. But that doesn't mean that our brains are just there to meet our basic physical needs. To enhance our ability to survive and thrive, we also need to be able to live in human communities and interact well with others. Our brains are designed to be nurtured and enriched by that human contact, first by our parents and then by others with whom we are linked. Those interactions shape our brains and its connections as deeply and thoroughly as hunger, thirst, fear and lust. In humans, all of that culminates in the creation of a social reality that we are guided by. Everything from our language to our money to our government to our borders are inventions of human societies that we have agreed to abide by, to one degree or another. This social reality, embedded in culture, can then be passed on to future generations, just as much as the raw inheritance of our DNA. I particularly liked Barrett's last chapter, in which she talks about the five C's of human brains: The first four -- creativity, communication, copying and cooperation -- allow us to learn from each other and function as societies. The last one -- compression -- is both a physical and mental ability. Our ever refined neuronal connections depend on compression, or extracting the essence from all of the sensations and thoughts we process, and that essence is what allows us to think abstractly, using analogies, metaphors and other brain abilities. For both a primer on brain evolution and function, and for the ideas it stimulates, this book is well worth it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gary Moreau

    This is a very readable, concise summary of what we currently know about the brain. And it’s fascinating. “But you don’t sense with your sensory organs. You sense with your brain.” Or, “Your view of the world is no photograph. It’s a construction of your brain that is so fluid and so convincing that it appears to be accurate. But sometimes it’s not.” Perhaps the book’s greatest point of distinction, however, is the author’s clear explanation of what science is and is not. And it could not be time This is a very readable, concise summary of what we currently know about the brain. And it’s fascinating. “But you don’t sense with your sensory organs. You sense with your brain.” Or, “Your view of the world is no photograph. It’s a construction of your brain that is so fluid and so convincing that it appears to be accurate. But sometimes it’s not.” Perhaps the book’s greatest point of distinction, however, is the author’s clear explanation of what science is and is not. And it could not be timelier. You can’t turn on the television or click on an internet news site these days without encountering the debate. “Follow the science,” which is a sentiment I strongly share, particularly when it comes to pandemics, is often bandied about without a clear understanding of what it really means. Not so long ago the words science and philosophy, the latter of which many consider not to be science at all, were synonymous. One of the most important works in modern science, written by Sir Isaac Newton in 1687, actually used the word philosophy in its title. Science is not a body of knowledge or a simple set of irrefutable facts. It is a methodology for interpreting the reality around us. Or, as Feldman Barrett notes, “Scientists normally try to avoid saying that something is fact or is definitely true or false. In the real world, facts have some probability of being true or false in a particular context.” Or in a quote she attributes to Henry Gee, “science is a process of quantifying doubt.” As a result, while this book provides a completely different view of the brain than most of us probably hold, I doubt even the author would claim it to be definitive or exhaustive. It marks a milestone along a very long path that is sure to become even more fascinating the further along it we travel. You can read the book in a few hours. But you will think about it (although perhaps not in the way you have previously thought of thought) for much, much longer than that.

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