The brain is complicated. Learning about it doesn’t have to be
The brain is one of the most complex organs in the human body. What better way to explore this complicated biological structure for Brain Awareness Week than with the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series? Synthesizing specialized subject matter for non-specialists and engaging critical topics through fundamentals, each of these compact volumes offers readers a point of access to complex ideas. Dissect the brain through the topics below, including the concepts of memory, critical thinking, and synesthesia.
fMRI by Peter A. Bandettini
The discovery of functional MRI (fMRI) methodology in 1991 was a breakthrough in neuroscience research. This non-invasive, relatively high-speed, and high-sensitivity method of mapping human brain activity enabled observation of subtle localized changes in blood flow associated with brain activity. Thousands of scientists around the world have not only embraced fMRI as a new and powerful method that complemented their ongoing studies but have also gone on to redirect their research around this revolutionary technique. This volume offers an accessible introduction to the history, fundamental concepts, challenges, and controversies of fMRI, written by one of the pioneers in the field.
Neurolinguistics by Giosuè Baggio
Neurolinguistics, the study of language in the brain, describes the anatomical structures (networks of neurons in the brain) and physiological processes (ways for these networks to be active) that allow humans to learn and use one or more languages. It draws on neuroscience, linguistics—particularly theoretical linguistics—and other disciplines. In this volume, Giosuè Baggio offers an accessible introduction to the fundamentals of neurolinguistics, covering language processing, language acquisition, literacy, and speech and language disorders.
Memory by Fergus Craik and Larry Jacoby
Why do we vividly recall a traumatic childhood event but forget where we left our keys five minutes ago? How can a scent take us back fifty years while a colleague’s name eludes us? In this compact introduction, two leading psychological researchers describe memory—how it works and why it sometimes doesn’t; how it can be tricked, trained, or improved; and what changes with time. Memory draws a clear picture, at once broad and concise, of current and classical views of memory, that most essential and often mysterious feature of human life.
Synesthesia by Richard E. Cytowic
One in twenty-three people carry the genes for the synesthesia. Not a disorder but a neurological trait—like perfect pitch—synesthesia creates vividly felt cross-sensory couplings. A synesthete might hear a voice and at the same time see it as a color or shape, taste its distinctive flavor, or feel it as a physical touch. In this volume, Richard Cytowic—the expert who returned synesthesia to mainstream science after decades of oblivion—offers a concise, accessible primer on this fascinating human experience.
The Mind–Body Problem by Jonathan Westphal
Philosophers from Descartes to Kripke have struggled with the glittering prize of modern and contemporary philosophy: the mind-body problem. The brain is physical. If the mind is physical, we cannot see how. If we cannot see how the mind is physical, we cannot see how it can interact with the body. In this book, philosopher Jonathan Westphal examines the mind-body problem in detail, laying out the reasoning behind the solutions that have been offered in the past and presenting his own proposal. The sharp focus on the mind-body problem—a problem that is not about the self, or consciousness, or the soul, or anything other than the mind and the body—helps clarify both problem and solutions.
Neuroplasticity by Moheb Costandi
Fifty years ago, neuroscientists thought that a mature brain was fixed like a fly in amber, unable to change. Today, we know that our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lifetimes. This concept of neuroplasticity has captured the imagination of a public eager for self-improvement—and has inspired countless Internet entrepreneurs who peddle dubious “brain training” games and apps. In this book, Moheb Costandi offers a concise and engaging overview of neuroplasticity for the general reader, describing how our brains change continuously in response to our actions and experiences.
The Conscious Mind by Zoltan Torey
How did the human mind emerge from the collection of neurons that makes up the brain? How did the brain acquire self-awareness, functional autonomy, language, and the ability to think, to understand itself and the world? In this volume, Zoltan Torey offers an accessible and concise description of the evolutionary breakthrough that created the human mind. Torey proposes that once life began, consciousness had to emerge—because consciousness is the informational source of the brain’s behavioral response. Consciousness, he argues, is not a newly acquired “quality,” “cosmic principle,” “circuitry arrangement,” or “epiphenomenon,” as others have argued, but an indispensable working component of the living system’s manner of functioning.
Critical Thinking by Jonathan Haber
Critical thinking is regularly cited as an essential twenty-first century skill, the key to success in school and work. Given our propensity to believe fake news, draw incorrect conclusions, and make decisions based on emotion rather than reason, it might even be said that critical thinking is vital to the survival of a democratic society. But what, exactly, is critical thinking? In this book, Jonathan Haber explains how the concept of critical thinking emerged, how it has been defined, and how critical thinking skills can be taught and assessed.