The Neuroscience of Everyday Life

Overview

Your nervous system is you. All the thoughts, perceptions, moods, passions, and dreams that make you an active, sentient being are the work of this amazing network of cells. For many centuries, people knew that this was true. But no one was sure how it happened.

Now, thanks to the exciting new field of neuroscience, we can chart the workings of the brain and the rest of the nervous system in remarkable detail to explain how neurons, synapses, neurotransmitters, and other ...

See more details below
Other sellers (DVD)
  • All (2) from $95.08   
  • Used (2) from $95.08   

Overview

Your nervous system is you. All the thoughts, perceptions, moods, passions, and dreams that make you an active, sentient being are the work of this amazing network of cells. For many centuries, people knew that this was true. But no one was sure how it happened.

Now, thanks to the exciting new field of neuroscience, we can chart the workings of the brain and the rest of the nervous system in remarkable detail to explain how neurons, synapses, neurotransmitters, and other biological processes produce all the experiences of everyday life, in every stage of life. From the spectacular growth of the brain in infancy to the act of learning a skill, falling in love, getting a joke, revising an opinion, or even forgetting a name, something very intriguing is going on behind the scenes.

For example, groundbreaking research in the past few decades is now able to explain such phenomena as these:

  • Decisions: Studies of decision making at the level of neurons show that our brain has often committed to a course of action before we are aware of having made a decision—an apparent violation of our sense of free will.
  • Memory: Memory is composed of many systems located in different parts of the brain, which means that you can forget your car keys (information stored in the neocortex) but still remember how to drive (a learned skill requiring the striatum and cerebellum).
  • Willpower: Willpower is more than a metaphor; it's a measurable trait that draws on a finite mental resource, like a muscle. While any given individual has a consistent willpower capacity throughout life, it can be strengthened through training—again, just like a muscle.
  • Religion and spirituality: Three mental traits appear to be essential for the development of organized religion: the search for causes and effects, the ability to reason about people and motives, and language. Mystical experiences also trace to specific activities of the brain.

Opening your eyes to how neural processes produce the familiar features of human existence, The Neuroscience of Everyday Life covers a remarkable range of subjects in 36 richly detailed lectures. You will explore the brain under stress and in love, learning, sleeping, thinking, hallucinating, and just looking around—which is less about recording reality than creating illusions that allow us to function in our environment.

Your professor is distinguished neuroscientist and Professor Sam Wang of Princeton University, an award-winning researcher and best-selling author, public speaker, and TV and radio commentator. Professor Wang's insightful and playful approach makes this course a joy for anyone who wants to know how his or her own brain works. And his vivid, richly illustrated presentation assumes no background in science.

Fact or Fiction?

Professor Wang points out that a lot of what we think we know about our brains turns out to be wrong. While bringing you up to date on the latest discoveries in the field, he debunks the following persistent myths:

  • We use only 10% of our brains: Your brain is actually running at 100%! The myth about idle brain power has been promoted by self-help gurus and doesn't stand up to evidence from cases of brain damage, which always cause deficits in function.
  • Mozart makes babies smarter: Playing classical music may help calm you down around an infant, but it's not doing anything for the baby. The better strategy is to have children learn to play a musical instrument when they're older, which does improve brain development.
  • Women are moodier than men: Studies show that the sexes are tied in the moodiness contest, with men reporting just as frequent mood swings as women. However, both men and women tend to remember women's mood swings better.
  • We lose brain cells as we age: The brain is supposedly unique as an organ because it stops adding new cells after birth. In fact, some parts of the brain keep producing new neurons throughout life. The brain shrinks somewhat with age, but its neurons live on.

Tune Up Your Brain!

Operating on about the power consumed by an idling laptop, the brain has often been compared to a computer. But this, too, is a myth. Computers are logically straightforward in design, whereas the brain is a marvel of evolutionary makeshift, with layer upon layer of systems that started out with one function and then were adopted for something completely different. Some of the most primitive functions of the brain, such as the fight-or-flight response to danger, resist being overridden by the brain's powerful reasoning center, which evolved more recently.

Indeed, much of what the brain does is beyond our conscious control. Yet in some cases, there are ways to intervene. Here are some tips that Professor Wang offers to make your brain run at its optimum:

  • How to stick to a health regimen: If you use your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks, this can lead to a measurable increase in your willpower capacity. People who do this are then able to follow a diet or exercise program better.
  • Efficient learning: Don't cram! Spread out your study over several sessions. This allows your brain time to process what you've learned, which requires no additional effort on your part and greatly increases your retention of information.
  • Resetting your biological clock: The best way to beat jet lag is to use light, which cues your brain to where it is in the day/night cycle. For a flight between the United States and Europe, in either direction, a dose of afternoon sunlight after you arrive should help you adjust.
  • The best brain exercise is real exercise: Cognitive functions that normally deteriorate with age, such as memory and response time, can be boosted by aerobic exercise. The effect is largest if you are active starting in middle age, but it's never too late to start.

The Research Subject Is You

Turning from processes that are merely hidden to those that are utterly mysterious, The Neuroscience of Everyday Life also sheds light on these phenomena:

  • Love: Prairie voles are a fascinating model for studying human mating, since, unlike most other mammals, they are monogamous. For them as well as for us, the neurotransmitters oxytocin and vasopressin control the expression of pair bonding, better known as love.
  • Humor: Smiles and laughter are two emotional components of humor that have deep roots as social signals. Another component is characterized by the sudden flash of insight that occurs when we "get"a joke; brain scanners show where this happens.
  • Haunted houses: Neurological phenomena that people have associated with haunted houses, such as the feeling of an invisible presence, also occur from carbon monoxide poisoning—a once-common problem in houses lit with gas. Reports of haunted houses have dropped sharply with the decline in gas lighting.
  • Consciousness: Our conscious awareness extends to only a fraction of the stimuli registered by our brains, like a spotlight focusing on a tiny portion of a flood of data. Experiments show that we often act on unconscious information without being aware of it.

Professor Wang notes that it was his fascination with consciousness, free will, and other big ideas that led him to switch from physics, which he studied as an undergraduate, to a field he regards as even more alive with possibilities for breakthroughs that will change our worldview in fundamental ways.

That field, of course, is neuroscience. The Neuroscience of Everyday Life is your chance to explore a discipline that is now going through its golden age, with the advantage that the subject is not some abstract entity.

It's you.

About Your Professor

Dr. Sam Wang is Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at Princeton University. He earned his B.S. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Neurosciences from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Wang is a well-known researcher in the field of neuroscience and has published more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals. His work includes the discovery that learning mechanisms can act like all-or-none switches, and that bird and mammalian brains share similar architectures for generating complex social relations. Dr. Wang is also the coauthor of the best-selling popular book, Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. The book has been translated into more than 20 languages and received the AAAS/Subaru Science Book of the Year Award in the Young Adult category.

Professor Wang has been widely honored for his scholarship and his advances in neuroscience. He has been the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Rita Allen Foundation Young Scholars Fellowship, a Distinguished Young Investigator Award from the W. M. Keck Foundation, and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. He was also selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow, and he served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

Read More Show Less
  • The Neuroscience of Everyday Life
    The Neuroscience of Everyday Life  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

For more than 20 years, The Great Courses has produced college-level courses taught by only the best professors that the world’s top universities have to offer – a “university of the best” designed in careful collaboration with customers. After identifying the top 1% of college professors and leading experts based on teaching awards, published evaluations, and other sources, The Great Courses then narrows their selection to those educators who score highly on customers’ review of auditions. Only the top 1 in 5,000 professors is chosen to be on The Great Courses faculty. The outstanding quality ensures that your time with The Great Courses is time well spent, with consistently fascinating lectures that will enhance your joy of learning.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/3/2012
  • ISBN-13: 9781598036978
  • Source: The Great Courses
  • Format: DVD

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously