Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Great Brain Book: The Scientific American DAY in the LIFE of Your BRAIN

I am always on the lookout for new books about how our brains work. I’ve just discovered a book that is an easy read, filled with great information and illustrations and is about as up-to-ate as any brain book can be. “Day in the Life of Your Brain” by journalist Judith Horstman is published by Jossey-Bass. The information, however, is a compilation of articles from Scientific American MIND magazine. The author has synthesized hundreds of short articles about how our brains function in the context of a twenty-four hour day. Although she admits that we all have different circadian rhythms, we do tend to do things at about the same time each day.If you aren’t familiar with Scientific American MIND magazine, you may want to investigate this bimonthly publication. Each issue has a focus such as SLEEP, CREATIVITY, MEMORY, LAUGHTER. Cognitive neuroscientists and other researchers report on the latest studies in the various fields of brain research. My favorite parts are all of the insets that are filled with Brainy Facts and interesting information.

The "Day in the Life of the Brain” can easily be read in a few hours. When I first got it, I liked the fact that I could look up any time of day and jump into some fascinating stuff about how my random brain was probably working right at that moment! Later I went back and started at the beginning – attempting to be more sequential. The author says that she wanted the book to be able to be understood by her thirteen year old granddaughter and yet still enjoyed by a neuroscientist. I think she's done it!

I found a great video of Judith Horstman giving a talk about the book to the Commonwealth Club of California. (see link below) At the beginning of her talk she says that when she was asked to compile the information about a “day in the life of a brain,” her first thought was, “Whose brain?” She says that she discovered that except for the extremes of aging or injury, are brains work in mostly the same way.

I think this is a great book for the lay reader that summarizes the incredible knowledge that recent research has given us. The illustrations are of high quality. Each article and section references the scientists, doctors and research facilities that are conducting the research. The familiar names appear often: Gazzaniga, Sapolsky, Sacks, and LeDoux, etc. I am looking forward to her new book due next spring on Neural Plasticity.

Author talk: “A Day in the Life of Your Brain” Judith Horstman, Commonwealth Club

Book – Amazon

Scientific American MIND magazine

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