We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's
D. F. Swaab
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A vivid account of what makes us human.
Based groundbreaking new research, We Are Our Brains is a sweeping biography of the human brain, from infancy to adulthood to old age. Renowned neuroscientist D. F. Swaab takes us on a guided tour of the intricate inner workings that determine our potential, our limitations, and our desires, with each chapter serving as an eye-opening window on a different stage of brain development: the gender differences that develop in the embryonic brain, what goes on in the heads of adolescents, how parenthood permanently changes the brain.
Moving beyond pure biological understanding, Swaab presents a controversial and multilayered ethical argument surrounding the brain. Far from possessing true free will, Swaab argues, we have very little control over our everyday decisions, or who we will become, because our brains predetermine everything about us, long before we are born, from our moral character to our religious leanings to whom we fall in love with. And he challenges many of our prevailing assumptions about what makes us human, decoding the intricate “moral networks” that allow us to experience emotion, revealing maternal instinct to be the result of hormonal changes in the pregnant brain, and exploring the way that religious “imprinting” shapes the brain during childhood. Rife with memorable case studies, We Are Our Brains is already a bestselling international phenomenon. It aims to demystify the chemical and genetic workings of our most mysterious organ, in the process helping us to see who we are through an entirely new lens.
Did you know?
• The father’s brain is affected in pregnancy as well as the mother’s.
• The withdrawal symptoms we experience at the end of a love affair mirror chemical addiction.
• Growing up bilingual reduces the likelihood of Alzheimer’s.
• Parental religion is imprinted on our brains during early development, much as our native language is.
Praise for We Are Our Brains
“Swaab’s ‘neurobiography’ is witty, opinionated, passionate, and, above all, cerebral.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A fascinating survey . . . Swaab employs both personal and scientific observation in near-equal measure.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A cogent, provocative account of how twenty-first-century ‘neuroculture’ has the potential to effect profound medical and social change.”—Kirkus Reviews
but you can interpret the resultant action. The “conscious picture” that our brains register when we carry out an action gives us the feeling that we have knowingly performed that action. But that feeling doesn’t constitute proof of a conscious, causal chain of events leading to the action. According to the Amsterdam psychologist Victor Lamme, the illusion of conscious will only occurs belatedly, when the information about the action being performed is transmitted back to the cerebral cortex.
incur a lot of brain damage, like professional boxers (see chapter 12), this degeneration is more serious and occurs faster, resulting in plaques and tangles, which lead to the onset of Alzheimer’s. If this theory is correct, the only way of preventing Alzheimer’s would be to halt brain aging. And that’s bad news, because we’re a long way from being able to do that. ALZHEIMER’S: THE STAGES OF DETERIORATION Be nice to your kids, they’ll choose your nursing home. Text on a mug my daughter
documentary, Paul van Eerde explains that he doesn’t want to experience the humiliation and loss of dignity that Alzheimer’s entails. His wife and children support him in his difficult decision, and the family enjoys their remaining time together. However, the one person who doesn’t endorse Paul’s own choice is his family doctor. Paul isn’t the only one to find out belatedly what his doctor’s stance is. Whereas the vast majority of the Dutch population favors euthanasia, assisted dying, or the
Money, a sexologist from Philadelphia, and was given estrogen during puberty. Money described the case as a great success: The child was said to have developed normally as a female (see the epigraph to this section). When I remarked during a seminar in the United States that this was the only case I knew showing that a child’s gender identity could be changed by its environment after birth, Milton Diamond, a renowned sexuality expert, stood up and said that Money’s claim was completely unfounded.
hormones and other substances on the developing brain. Studies of twins and families show that sexual orientation is 50 percent genetically determined, but the genes in question haven’t yet been identified. It is curious that a genetic predisposition for homosexuality should persist in populations over the course of evolution, given that this group reproduces so much less. One explanation for why homosexuality persists is that the involved genes don’t just increase the likelihood of homosexuality