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The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head is Really Up To


The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head is Really Up To

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    Available in PDF Format | The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head is Really Up To.pdf | English
    Dean Burnett(Author)


Motion sickness.
Forgetting people's names.
Why did I walk into this room??

For something supposedly so brilliant and evolutionarily advanced, the human brain is pretty messy, fallible and disorganised. In The Idiot Brain neuroscientist Dean Burnett celebrates the imperfections of the human brain in all their glory, and the impact of these quirks on our daily lives. Expertly researched and entertainingly written, this book is for anyone who has wondered why their brain seems to be sabotaging their life, and what on earth it is really up to.

I really admire Dean Burnett's work. He's very compelling and wise and rational. You know you can trust him and you know it's going to be a great read. (Jon Ronson)This is a wonderful introduction to neuroscience, and deserves to be widely read. (Leyla Sanai Independent)A witty breath of fresh air. I laughed, I worried, I learned the difference between semantic memory and episodic memory. If it winds up becoming the A Brief History of Time of neuroscience, then that’s gravy. (PopMatters)An entertaining romp through the science of our mental mental processes. Full of fascinating insight into the brain and the origins of our crazy behaviour. (Gaia Vince, author of Adventures in the Anthropocene)

3.5 (12236)
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Book details

  • PDF | 336 pages
  • Dean Burnett(Author)
  • Guardian Faber Publishing; Main edition (2 Mar. 2017)
  • English
  • 2
  • Health, Family & Lifestyle
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Review Text

  • By jaxbee on 20 July 2016

    Carrying out some 'research' (good old Google Wandering) I stumbled across 'Brain Flapping', Dean Burnett's blog at The Guardian. I found myself laughing at the words of a somewhat a-typical neuroscientist, and understanding them, too. No, really. And thus I picked up Burnett's first book: The Idiot Brain. I expected to dip in and out, be amused for ten minutes, and need a lie down for the next, but not so. I read it in two days.This is a book about how the brain works, with its heavy emphasis on it not being as clever as we've been brought up to think. OK, our brain is clever, very clever to cope with the 21st century demands on it, but it's also full of clutter, the detritus of evolutionary development from a pre-stone age brain. Sometimes, often, it hiccups.Burnett describes the brain's workings in a simple, logical and yet imaginative way – not easy to do I'm sure. It's also a very comforting read. Now that it's been explained, I feel vindicated for remembering everything about someone except their name. It's also OK to get angry sometimes. In fact, it's really rather good, particularly if your reputation and social standing are at risk. Self-doubt? It's a social skill. Even Einstein thought that his intelligence was fake and that one day he would be found out.And beware if you pride yourself on your debating skills. There's a whole section on why it's often less intelligent people, or the uninformed, who win the arguments. Just saying.Memory has always fascinated me – why one person can have a cabinet of quiz trophies but not remember their partner's birthday, or vice versa – so I was particularly interested in the long sections on this.Were you aware, for instance, that our short term memory is, at most, one minute long? For up to sixty seconds we can, at best, remember four measly items. Four! If our brain decides we need the items for longer, then it might consider moving them into our long-term memory but not without significant effort. There are ways we can boost the volume of short term memory, constructing random words into a sentence or mnemonic, for example, because one sentence, as opposed to one word, can count as one of your four remembered items. But even then, the short term memory is pretty limited. Another comfort. It explains why we can wander into a room and forget what possessed us to go there in the first place. En route, something much more important to survival swooped into the tally of remembered items and out ranked the empty cup you'd clocked when you passed with your arms full of washing. But no need to panic. If the reason you ran into the room was to escape a wild boar, you would remember to close the door behind you and wouldn’t wander off instead to make the beds. It's a restricted brain, an Idiot Brain, but it's very good at survival.I loved this book. I felt like I was effortlessly learning a little about a fascinating field of which I'm pretty ignorant. The anecdotal style of writing kept me amused - I heard that Dean Burnett does a bit of stand-up and that doesn't surprise me. And I'm relieved to learn that my brain's idiotic catastrophic misses, are simply the product of the 21st century's messy brain.If you'd like to understand a little more about what it is to be human but don't have the time or inclination to return to study, this one's for you.

  • By Kali x on 18 May 2016

    A truly brilliant book. Clearly written so that the uninitiated can understand. He does use the big words, but he explains them in very plain english, and with a sense of humour. I am currently recommending this book to everyone that I meet. I would especially recommend this to any student about to undertake any modules that cover neurology to read before ( and probably alongside the recommended dry , technical text books).It is an enjoyable read as well as an educational one. He covers the glitches that exist in normal brain functioning and ends with explaining what happens when the brain is not functioning as it should. He also explains why I understand so much more while I am reading the book, but am now unable to quote directly from it..Well worth the money.

  • By Jules on 7 September 2017

    If you have every wondered why you react, behave or even think the way you do - then this is the book you should read.Highly enjoyable and very matter-of-fact, with humorous asides, real-life references and not a stuffy bit of writing in sight, this is a simple guide to the highly complex world of neuroscience. The author explores the functions of the brain, our emotional response triggers, mental health, addiction, behavioral science and much more, with a light, witty touch and simple explanations.Made me feel intellectually better by the end - and this book explained why that happened.Fab.

  • By Phil3 on 21 August 2017

    An entertaining, concise, fascinating & mostly very easy-to-read summary for the general public of what's currently known (and not yet known) from science about how our brains actually work. Mostly the author does really well in avoiding use of medical jargon, with just ocassional lapses (perhaps he forgot!). Some future edition might benefit from a few extra diagrams to show us the relative positions of the brain regions/bits (with respect to each other), just to help us learn or keep track of the names.

  • By DrOlpo on 9 April 2017

    Great book. got this this to read on holiday and it kept me entertained. Definitely for those that enjoy a nerdy read. First few chapters start on simple topics and should be suitable for most readers, later sections get into some more academic topics. good style of writing that doesn't come off as pretentious or over technical, remaining relatively informal but informative. would 100% recommend.

  • By gismo on 24 March 2017

    Excellent book, explains the strange behaviour that takes place in our heads, scary behaviour explained using humour, and well thought concepts

  • By Fade to Black on 5 June 2017

    Mind boggling information! Absolutely loved it.

  • By Hangie on 24 April 2017

    Enjoyed this book, spent a disproportionate amount of time on depression as of it was a passion. Light read for informed relaxation.

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