The Three-Pound Enigma: The Human Brain and the Brilliant Minds Exploring It

The Three-Pound Enigma: The Human Brain and the Brilliant Minds Exploring It

by Shannon Moffett
     
 

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The average human brain weighs three pounds—80 percent of which is water—and yet it's capable of outstripping the computational and storage capacities of the most complex computer. But how the mind works remains one of humankind's greatest mysteries.

With boundless curiosity and enthusiasm, Shannon Moffett, a Stanford medical student, takes us down the

Overview

The average human brain weighs three pounds—80 percent of which is water—and yet it's capable of outstripping the computational and storage capacities of the most complex computer. But how the mind works remains one of humankind's greatest mysteries.

With boundless curiosity and enthusiasm, Shannon Moffett, a Stanford medical student, takes us down the halls of neuroscience to the front lines of cutting-edge research and medicine to meet some of today's most extraordinary scientists and thinkers, all grappling with provocative questions: Why do we dream? How does memory work? How do we see? What happens when we think?

Each chapter delves into a different aspect of the brain, following the experts as they chart new ground. Moffett takes us to a lab where fMRI scans reveal the multitude of stimuli that our brains unconsciously take in; inside an operating room where a neurosurgeon removes a bullet from a patient's skull; to the lab of Christof Koch, a neuroscientist tracking individual neurons in order to crack the code of consciousness; and to a research lab where scientists are investigating the relationship between dreams and waking life. She also takes us beyond the scientific world—to a Zen monk's zendo, where she explores the effects of meditation on the brain; inside the home of a woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder; to a conference with the philosopher Daniel Dennett, who uses illusions, magic, tricks, and logic to challenge our assumptions about the mind; and to the home of the late Nobel Laureate Francis Crick, co-discoverer with James Watson of DNA's double-helix structure.

Filled with fascinating case studies and featuring a timeline that tracks the development of the brain from conception to death, The Three Pound Enigma is a remarkable exploration of what it means to be human.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Can the complexities of the human mind be located in a physical organ? Where do our memories and our selves go when the brain dies? In her first book, Stanford medical student Moffett ponders these and other perennial questions through a series of pedestrian profiles of scientists and philosophers, among others. Moffett introduces us to neurosurgeon Roberta Glick, whose work offers a glimpse of the frailty of the human brain and the fact that even minor physical damage to it can whisk away our consciousness and memory forever. Other profiles include John Gabrieli, whose pioneering work with functional MRIs has led to new discoveries about how memory works; sleep researcher Bob Stickgold, who uses functional MRIs and virtual-reality games in an attempt to capture the operation of consciousness in the dream state; and Zen monk Norman Fischer, who teaches Moffett, through meditation, that mind and brain are not synonymous. While the profiles offer no new insights into the mystery of the human brain, Moffett sandwiches in fascinating interludes tracing the development of the brain from embryonic state to death. The interludes sometimes contain overly technical language, but they offer an instructive look at the brain. Line art. Main Selection of the Scientific American Book Club. (Jan. 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565124233
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/20/2006
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.06(d)

Meet the Author

Shannon Moffett graduated from NYU with a B.A. She is currently a medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, where she’s received two Stanford Arts and Humanities Medical Scholars grants. This is her first book.

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