The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought

The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought

by Gary Marcus
     
 

In The Birth of the Mind, award-winning cognitive scientist Gary Marcus irrevocably alters the nature vs. nurture debate by linking the findings of the Human Genome project to the development of the brain.Startling findings have recently revealed that the genome is much smaller than we once thought, containing no more than 30,000-40,000 genes. Since this

Overview

In The Birth of the Mind, award-winning cognitive scientist Gary Marcus irrevocably alters the nature vs. nurture debate by linking the findings of the Human Genome project to the development of the brain.Startling findings have recently revealed that the genome is much smaller than we once thought, containing no more than 30,000-40,000 genes. Since this discovery, scientists have struggled to understand how such a tiny number of genes could contain the instructions for building the human brain, arguably the most complex device in the known universe. Synthesizing up-to-the-minute biology with his own original findings on child development, Marcus is the first to resolve this apparent contradiction by chronicling exactly how genes create the infinite complexities of the human mind. Along the way, he dispels the common misconceptions people harbor about genes, and explores the stunning implications of this research for the future of genetic engineering.Vibrantly written and completely accessible to the lay reader, The Birth of the Mind will forever change the way we think about our origins and ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

Jascha Hoffman
When it is not bogged down in the nature-nurture debate, The Birth of the Mind presents a clear and accessible review of recent work on the biology of brain growth.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
NYU psychologist Marcus strikes a rare and delicate balance of scientific detail and layperson accessibility in this overview of an exploding field of inquiry. He traces a compelling story through the classic genetics and brain experiments of the past century up to present-day research, intriguingly illustrating how the human genome is intertwined with brain development, showing how the mechanisms that build brains are extensions of the mechanisms that build the body. Marcus dispels popular misconceptions of genes, showing, for instance, that most behaviors and disorders are much more complicated than headlines such as "gene for obesity discovered" would have us believe. Heavy explanations of complex results and abstract concepts are leavened by Marcus' upbeat, friendly writing style, which makes even the most arcane genetics principles a joy to read. Experiments with vision and language are particularly well-represented, with vivid descriptions adding color to the technical prose. If there is a fault here, it is that the book jumps around a bit too much, attempting to collect several decades of research and many threads of thought into a single slim volume. A lengthy glossary and bibliography, along with meticulous footnoting throughout, are helpful for those wishing to educate themselves further on the subject, but Marcus gives most readers more than enough to think about here. (Dec. 2) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Scientific inquiry into the mystery of the human mind continues to flourish, as do books on the topic. Here, Marcus (psychology, NYU; The Algebraic Mind) focuses on how the relatively small human genome (perhaps fewer than 40,000 genes) can generate our enormously complex brains and how nature works with nurture in this creative process. In a lucid, lively text, he argues that our genes (each of which can be used repeatedly) provide not a blueprint but flexible recipes that are influenced by experience and the environment. Drawing on research in the fields of biology and psychology to support his theories, Marcus notes that learning is fundamental to the process of neural development and works by modifying the expression of genes, which, in turn, modifies the brain. Learning and the acquisition of culture, in fact, can be viewed as a product of genes-language being one very important way for the human organism to learn. The author also explains how our mental genes might have evolved using a coordinated process of duplication and divergence. An accessible book appropriate for public and academic libraries.-Laurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465044054
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
12/02/2003
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.45(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Gary Marcus is Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University. Author of The Algebraic Mind, Marcus received his Ph.D. from MIT at the age of twenty-three. In 2002-2003, he is a Fellow of the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences. He lives in New York City. To learn more about Marcus' work, please visit http://www.psych.nyu.edu/gary/birth.html

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