Our brainiest books

Celebrating World Brain Day with books and journals on cognitive science and the mind

Today is World Brain Day—the perfect opportunity to explore the mind, cognition, and brain health. To mark the occasion, we’re breaking out all our books and journals on the brain. Ever wondered whether newborns’ minds are really blank slates? Or have you pondered how our brains (and those of our ancestors) process numbers? Look no further than the titles below.

Read on to learn a bit more about the inner workings of your mind and how to keep it healthy—and explore even more of our books on cognitive sciences here.

Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History by Stephen Chrisomalis

Over the past 5,000 years, more than 100 methods of numerical notation—distinct ways of writing numbers—have been developed and used by specific communities. Most of these are barely known today; where they are known, they are often derided as cognitively cumbersome and outdated. In Reckonings, Stephen Chrisomalis considers how humans past and present have used numerals, reinterpreting historical and archaeological representations of numerical notation and exploring the implications of why we write numbers with figures rather than words.

Reckonings serves as an enlightening example of how the fundamentals of information cannot be understood by a single discipline.” —Information & Culture

Born Knowing: Imprinting and the Origins of Knowledge by Giorgio Vallortigara

Why do newborns show a preference for a face (or something that resembles a face) over a nonface-like object? Why do baby chicks prefer a moving object to an inanimate one? Neither baby human nor baby chick has had time to learn to like faces or movement. In Born Knowing, neuroscientist Giorgio Vallortigara argues that the mind is not a blank slate. Early behavior is biologically predisposed rather than learned, and this instinctive or innate behavior, Vallortigara says, is key to understanding the origins of knowledge.

“This book presents fascinating findings and a creative synthesis at the frontier of the study of nature and nurture.” —Steven Pinker, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works

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 in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Giosuè Baggio offers an accessible introduction to the fundamentals of neurolinguistics, covering language processing, language acquisition, literacy, and speech and language disorders.

The Spontaneous Brain: From the Mind–Body to the World–Brain Problem by Georg Northoff

Philosophers have long debated the mind-body problem—whether to attribute such mental features as consciousness to mind or to body. Meanwhile, neuroscientists search for empirical answers, seeking neural correlates for consciousness, self, and free will. In this book, Georg Northoff does not propose new solutions to the mind-body problem; instead, he questions the problem itself, arguing that it is an empirically, ontologically, and conceptually implausible way to address the existence and reality of mental features. We are better off, he contends, by addressing consciousness and other mental features in terms of the relationship between world and brain; philosophers should consider the world-brain problem rather than the mind-body problem.

“Anyone interested in contemporary neuroscience can learn a lot from this book.” —Colin Klein, The Australian National University, and author of What the Body Commands

A Synthesizing Mind: A Memoir from the Creator of Multiple Intelligences Theory by Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind was that rare publishing phenomenon—a mind-changer. Widely read by the general public as well as by educators, this influential book laid out Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. It debunked the primacy of the IQ test and inspired new approaches to education; entire curricula, schools, museums, and parents’ guides were dedicated to the nurturing of the several intelligences. In his new book, A Synthesizing Mind, Gardner reflects on his intellectual development and his groundbreaking work, tracing his evolution from bookish child to eager college student to disengaged graduate student to Harvard professor.

“An insightful memoir from an eminent psychologist.” —Kirkus Review

Picturing the Mind: Consciousness through the Lens of Evolution by Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka

What is consciousness, and who (or what) is conscious—humans, nonhumans, nonliving beings? How did consciousness evolve? Picturing the Mind pursues these questions through a series of “vistas”—short, engaging texts by Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka, accompanied by Anna Zeligowski’s lively illustrations. Taking an evolutionary perspective, Ginsburg and Jablonka suggest that consciousness can take many forms and is found not only in humans but even in such animals as octopuses (who seem to express emotions by changing color) and bees (who socialize with other bees). They identify the possible evolutionary marker of the transition from nonconscious to conscious animals, and they speculate intriguingly about aliens and artificial intelligence.

“A unique and beautiful book, full of insights and delights.” —Anil Seth, author of Being You: A New Science of Consciousness

Reason and Less: Pursuing Food, Sex, and Politics by Vinod Goel

In Reason and Less, Vinod Goel explains the workings of the tethered mind. Reason does not float on top of our biology but is tethered to evolutionarily older autonomic, instinctive, and associative systems. After describing the conceptual and neuroanatomical basis of each system, Goel shows how they interact to generate a blended response. Goel’s commonsense account drives human behavior back into the biology, where it belongs, and provides a richer set of tools for understanding how we pursue food, sex, and politics.

“In his latest book Vinod develops a stimulating new ‘tethered rationality’ perspective and explores fascinating implications for a range of pressing real-world challenges.” —Wim De Neys, University of Paris

Synesthesia by Richard E. Cytowic

One in twenty-three people carry the genes for 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 in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Richard Cytowic, the expert who returned synesthesia to mainstream science after decades of oblivion, offers a concise, accessible primer on this fascinating human experience.

Featured journals:

Open Mind

Open Mind provides a new venue for the highest quality, most innovative work in cognitive science, offering affordable open access publishing, concise and accessible articles, and quick turnaround times for authors. The journal covers the broad array of content areas within cognitive science, using approaches from cognitive psychology, computer science and mathematical psychology, cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology, comparative psychology and behavioral anthropology, decision sciences, and theoretical and experimental linguistics. These approaches are applicable to a broad range of content areas, including learning and memory, attention and object recognition, language processing and development, causal reasoning, judgment and decision making, philosophy of mind, and more.

Explore recent articles from Open Mind:

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience investigates brain-behavior interactions and promotes a lively interchange among the mind sciences. Contributions address both descriptions of function and underlying brain events and reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the field, covering developments in neuroscience, neuropsychology, and cognitive psychology.

Explore recent articles from Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience:

Network Neuroscience

Network Neuroscience features innovative scientific work that significantly advances our understanding of network organization and function in the brain across all scales, from molecules and neurons to circuits and systems. Positioned at the intersection of brain and network sciences, the journal covers empirical and computational studies that record, analyze or model relational data among elements of neurobiological systems, including neuronal signaling and information flow in circuits, patterns of functional connectivity recorded with electrophysiological or imaging methodology, studies of anatomical connections among neurons and brain regions, and interactions among biomolecules or genes. 

Explore recent articles from Network Neuroscience:

Neural Computation

Neural Computation disseminates important, multidisciplinary research in theory, modeling, computation, and statistics in neuroscience and in the design and construction of neurally inspired information processing systems. This field attracts psychologists, physicists, computer scientists, neuroscientists, and artificial intelligence investigators working on the neural systems underlying perception, emotion, cognition, and behavior, and artificial neural systems that have similar capabilities. Powerful new experimental technologies being developed by the BRAIN Initiative will produce large, complex data sets, and rigorous statistical analysis and theoretical insight will be essential for understanding what these data mean.

Explore recent articles from Neural Computation:

Neurobiology of Language

Neurobiology of Language provides a new venue for articles across a range of disciplines addressing the neurobiological basis of speech and language. Offering open access publishing, rigorous double-blind peer review, and quick turnaround times for authors, the journal aims to facilitate the replicability of experimental findings through modern open science requirements such as sharing of raw data and detailed methods.

Explore recent articles from Neurobiology of Language:

Discover more of the MIT Press’s books on the brain and cognitive science