The Human Brain Book

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Combining the latest findings from neuroscience with new brain imaging techniques, as well as developments on infant brains, telepathy, and brain modification, this new edition of DK's The Human Brain Book covers brain anatomy, function, and disorders in unprecedented detail.

With its unique 22-page atlas, illustrated with MRI scans, and an interactive DVD, The Human Brain Book is a perfect resource for families, students, or anyone interested in human biology, anatomy, and neuroscience.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Neurophysiologist Sir Charles Sherrington called the human brain "an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one." In the past century, this object of endless fascination has become the subject of increasingly precise and revealing scientific research. This DK guide delicately unlayers the findings of neuroscience research by providing a graphic multimedia guided tour of our brains, how they function when they work and what goes wrong when they don't. Clearly written and abundantly illustrated, The Human Brain Book has the potential to instruct and entertain the entire family.
From the Publisher
"[O]ffers extensive, detailed information on the systems of the body and the workings of the human brain." –
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756654412
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/31/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 12.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Rita Carter is a science and medical writer, and contributes to the Independent, New Scientist, the Daily Mail, and the Telegraph. She has twice been awarded the Medical Journalists' Association prize for outstanding contribution to medical journalism. She has written several books, including Mapping the Mind, Exploring Consciousness (both Weidenfeld and Nicolson), and Multiplicity: the New Science of Personality (Little, brown), which have sold internationally - including the US, Japan, Korea, Poland, Italy, Spain, and Brazil. Mapping the Mind was shortlisted for the Rhone-Poulenc Prize (now the Royal Society Prize for Science books). Rita also talks about the brain, consciousness, and behavior to a wide range of groups at seminars, conferences, and workshops around the world.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Rita Carter, author of The Human Brain Book

1. What made you interested in undertaking the massive creation of this book? What were your biggest challenges in making sure everything was included?

In the last ten years brain science has revealed astonishing things about the way we think, feel and behave. It has shown how we generate emotions like, fear, joy, and anger, provided explanations for otherwise mysterious faculties like altruism, empathy and love, shown why and how we each think and act differently, and helped us understand what goes wrong with our minds, and why.

I believe, passionately, that people should know about all this, because it affects every area of our lives. So my plan with this book was to cover the whole field of neuroscience in a way that makes it understandable to everyone, even those with no knowledge or interest in science.

It was difficult to get everything in because there has been such an explosion of knowledge and things are still moving at a ferocious pace. But I think we have succeeded in making The Human Brain Book as comprehensive and up-to-date as is possible and I'm terrifically proud to be associated with it.

2. What do you find to be the most intriguing or surprising function of the brain?

Far and away the most amazing thing the brain does is generate consciousness. We take our awareness of our own perceptions and feelings so much for granted that we rarely question how a lump of electro-chemically charged flesh can produce it. Neuroscience hasn't answered that one yet - but it has given us some intriguing clues.

3. Can you briefly offer yourthoughts on the efficacy of creating implantable "memory chips" in the brains of those with failing memories?

It is already possible to implant brain "pacemakers" which can fix damaged brain functions: there are some that can turn the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease on and off, for example, and experiments are being made with similar devices to control Tourette Syndrome and depression.
Memory failure poses greater problems because memory is so complicated. I think it will be possible, perhaps quite soon, to improve working memory function - that is, the ability to hold things in mind short-term, I am less sure that a chip of some sort could help maintain and retrieve long term memories because these are distributed throughout the brain. My bet is that drugs will remain a better bet for that aspect of memory improvement.

4. Brain science has shown that we sometimes start to follow through with actions before we actually decide to do them. How do you see the resulting implications of the idea of freewill, and does this change how we ultimately see ourselves as human beings?

I think the notion of freewill will eventually go the same way as the idea of the eternal soul . . . . We'll come to recognize it as a rather unhelpful illusion. People want to hang on to it, I think because they feel it makes us humans "special" - a sort of conceit. But l think it is good for us to recognize that we are just like any other creature or, indeed, any other object We can't decide what we do any more than a raindrop can decide to fall upwards- what seems to be a decision to act is really just a sort of "advance warning" of what we are about to do anyway..

The implications of this realization can't be over-stated. For a start we will have completely rethink our ideas about criminal justice: how can you punish people for actions over which they no control? We will have to develop more kindly ways of maintaining social control.

The freewill issue is already impacting on the way law is practiced and in the next few years I think it will start to affect every area of public and private life, from the way we bring up our children to the way we deal with global issues. It's not just a scientific revolution, but a cultural one.

5. Can brain imaging really spot a potential terrorist? If so, how? How reliable are brain scans for detecting potential behaviors?

Brain imaging can reveal things like deceit, aggression, hatred, intention and fear - that is, brain states that a potential terrorist is likely to have at some stage. But of course, this isn't the same as spotting a terrorist, so the technology would always have to be used with great discretion.

I do think it will prove useful though, in detection work. Studies suggest that in certain circumstances, brain imaging can reveal when a person is lying almost 100% of the time. And that's a lot better than your average jury member!

6. How are chemicals in the brain linked to obesity, eating disorders and addictive behaviors like gambling, drinking and smoking?

Every compulsion - over-eating, uncontrolled gambling, excessive drinking - is underpinned by brain activity which is modulated by chemicals. So if you can control those chemicals you can control the behavior- even it was originally brought about by something that happened in the person's childhood, or some stressful event in their present life.

People often argue that its best to treat the "root" cause, rather than trying some quick pharmaceutical fix, but I believe that if you first tackle the immediate, chemical cause of harmful behavior you can then deal more effectively with the deeper causes.- if there are any. In many cases the chemistry IS the problem: in most people, for example, brain chemistry constantly urges them to eat more than they need. Once that was very useful for survival because, in a world where food was scarce it pushed people to find enough. Now it pushes us to empty the food cupboard. If we want to solve the obesity crisis before we eat ourselves to death I think a chemical "fix" for the obesity crisis would be a great- and perhaps the only -solution.

7. Can you explain what the "Haunted Brain" is?

I use this phrase to mean our brain's natural inclination towards magic, superstition, and fantasy. They are the faculties that make us imaginative, creative and filled with wonder - but they also cause us to see ghosts, invent gods and suffer hallucinations. I am fascinated by this double-edged aspect of brain function, and I think it explains an enormous amount about us. Hence I have included the latest experimental work on the subject in the book and I think it makes astonishing reading.

8. The meaning and function of dreaming have always been popular topics. Can you briefly deconstruct the most recent scientific advances in our understanding of the dreaming process?

For a long time the scientific consensus was that dreams were meaningless, but the latest studies show that they really do reflect our waking concerns in ways that are useful to analyze. And we are starting to understand why dreams take the ridiculous form they do, and why we don't stop to question them.

9. What is next on your plate?

I'm becoming increasingly interested in the inner lives of other animals. Recent studies make it clear that in many ways we are not as different from other species as like to believe: animals also seem to have intense, conscious emotions, complicated social interactions and sometimes extraordinarily high intelligence. My next plan is to draw this work together and take a fresh look at animal minds.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 27 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2009

    Okay, well written and nice layout and photos/diagrams, but I found it had too little information in some areas, and other areas seemed a bit biased.

    This was okay--at least someone gave it a try--but the photos/diagrams often seemed better than the text provided. To me, the book ranged between 2 stars and 5 stars depending on the areas. Some areas seemed biased according to what some researchers contributed, and not overall unbiased scholarly accuracy provided. Other areas read as though you could have received the same information 30 years ago--nothing new offered. Other areas were propaganda-like--to push some sort of viewpoint by one faction of researchers. Also, many areas read devoid of a lot of information. What was nice about this book, was that many areas were covered and the nice, large presentation of the material. I found the layout excellent.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2015

    You have to see this -- because you won't find much to read.

    It seems a safe bet that you will never see a Books on Tape version of this book.

    If you like illustrations, this book is for you. It's an extra-large (although not especially thick) volume, with every two-page spread devoted to big illustrations of some topic pertaining to brain function. The illustrations and photographs are all in full color and include elaborate graphics and explanatory text.

    The problem is, the result is almost neuroscience-as-a-comic-book. Every spread is devoted to a particular topic -- and once they get to the end of the two pages, that's all there is. The topic doesn't carry over to another page, and there is very little text. Take out the illustrations and what you would have a pamphlet, not a book. The format means that topics cannot be covered in detail; you can't fit an in-depth discussion into two pages!

    There isn't even a detailed map of the brain with discussion of which areas do what.

    In the end, I was very disappointed. This is unfair; the book is very good for what it claims to be. Used in conjunction with several other books, it might be very useful. But if you want one book that will teach you neuroscience or the biology of the brain -- this isn't it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    Rita Carter's book, The Human Brain, is an absolutely fantastic

    Rita Carter's book, The Human Brain, is an absolutely fantastic book. The many pictures contributes a great deal to the learning process. I do not work in the medical field so this book provides a tremendous amount of information for people like me. I have read this book all the way through and I have read quite a lot of the pages 2 or 3 times on this first read-through. This book is so well written. This book inspires me to pursue more information in this field.

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  • Posted July 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An astounding book that lives up to its promise

    The Human Brain Book by Rita Carter does a magnificent job of explaining the intricacies surrounding that great big hunk of grey matter that sits in each of our heads. This coffee-table book gives an in-depth look at everything that a person could want to know about the mysterious mass that controls everything about him or her.

    The book itself is less of a “read through” book and more of a reference book that one could turn to if they were wondering about a certain facet of the brain; the helpful glossary and index make navigating this book quite easy, and finding what you want to learn about is a breeze.

    My favorite part about this book is that it categorizes the complexity of every item in the book by the size of the font that it is in: the larger the font, the more general and easily understood, and the smaller the font, the more technical and intricate the given information is. For instance, on the page for “The principles of memory,” the largest text explains memory in its most basic sense by stating the following: “Memory is a broad term used to refer to a number of different brain functions. The common feature of these functions is the re-creation of past experiences by the synchronous firing of neurons that were involved in the original experience.” The smallest text on the same page, this time in reference to cortical areas is the following: “Episodic memories activate the areas originally involved in the experience that is being recalled.” This is a great example of the difference in the technicality of a statement based upon its font size.

    I feel that this book is really meant for people that have at least finished the middle school and I would not recommend any younger than that, as some of the book gets quite confusing for someone who has no idea what they are looking for.

    The reference book style that The Human Brain Book is in makes it a wonderful source for anyone looking for answers to the questions that he or she has about the most important thing that each and everyone of us has: our brain. Overall I would rate this book a 4/5; I feel that it is quite an astounding book and it fulfills its promise of being “An illustrated guide to [the brain’s] structure, function, and disorders,” but at the same time, it is a bit overwhelming at points.

    Review by Young Mensan Adam W., age 16, Greater Los Angeles Area Mensa

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Detailed history and examples

    Detailed history of brain neurology and it's examples - both positive and tragic. THE book on the human brain if you're interested in understanding the how and why we are who we are.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2010


    This book is amazing and I spent many hours of leisure time reading this for fun; I origionally bought the book in order to write a report. This book, along with some thought, has made me seriously consider working in the neuro field. Very easy to read, great pictures, very interesting, LOTS of information.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    Interesting & informative

    My son received this book for his birthday; he has a strong interest in science in general and has recently been researching the human brain. He requested this book for his birthday. This book has information, diagrams and pictures that are helpful and interesting. It presents the topic in a way that is easy enough to understand but does not talk down to him. It has help fuel his interest in learning more.
    His class (6th grade) is currently learning about human biology/anatomy. Last week he was even critiquing the textbook how the diagrams were not quite accurate.. based in part by what he has learned from this book.

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  • Posted February 27, 2010

    The Human Brain Book by Rita Carter is a must have book for anyone seeking greater understanding of the Human Brain. The book also contains The Human Brain DVD!

    This book is phenomenal. The color imaging, photos, and pictures help one understand the healthy and damaged brain. As someone who sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury, I find this book extremely helpful in understanding the changes between my preinjury and postinjury self. Much of what was explained to me, during my recovery period, is so much clearer with the aid of this book. I would recommend this book and DVD to professionals, friends and families, and people with Brain Injuries. Rita Carter and all those who made this book possible should be commended for their outstanding accomplishments and service to humanity.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Way To Experience The Brain!!!

    I am a student and I am currently studying neuropsychology and biopsychology. This book is excellent for student studies. Every area of the brain is dissected and clearly marked with great information. I have never seen so much work put into one book! The pictures are the main reason that I purchased this book. It is a lot pricier than other books, but it is well worth what you pay!

    This book is great for beginner students (I highly recommend for undergraduate students) and not just for any general reader. This book would be helpful to aid in education (for teachers), but not advanced enough for Scholars.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    Finally, a visual guide to this most complex part of the body!

    I have wondered all my life why people believe and behave differently and why they view or perceive things differently. The brain is at the center of all of that and is so complex. Medicine is still finding new aspects of it and will probably never solve the riddles completely. But this book at least takes an excellent stab at detailing how senses and emotions are processed in different sections of the brain by offtering the most superb collection of 3D renderings I have ever seen. It fits my curiosity perfectly. One reviewer challenged a bit the topic of whether the research was completely accurate, or complete or without bias. Those arguments may go on forever, but for me that doesn't diminish the stunning value of this book. I was a meteorologist before retiring, and I can say that books on weather would lead some weather professionals to pose the same arguments about the accuracy and completeness of weather research topics in such a book. However, for the person who has long wondered how basic weather works, such a book with 3D illustrations for the invisible weather processes would be a major break through. That's how I value this book. Simply put, it is the best I have seen on the human brain having searched libraries and bookstores for a book of this type for quite some time.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Awesome Book

    I bought this daughter, and ended up using it for part of a research project. It has a ton of information and great pictures. Everything is explained in easy to understand language. Worth every dollar.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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