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The Private Life of the Brain [Hardcover]

Susan Greenfield
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jun 2000
With great originality, celebrated neuroscientist Susan A. Greenfield shows that states of abandon - intensely felt experiences of pleasure, exhilaration, joy and pain - in fact draw us to the centre of the mind. Between emotion and the mind there is no dichotomy, but rather a continuum in which we create the self. With passion and learning, Susan Greenfield addresses the most fascinating aspects of contemporary neuroscience, revealing exactly what happens to the brain when we are in the throes of an intense experience. How do drugs act on the brain? How might an understanding of the science of emotion help us better understand schizophrenia and depression? What is the relationship between pleasure and fear? Why is it impossible to maintain a state of high arousal for more than a brief period? Challenging a series of common assumptions about the relationship between emotion and the brain, Susan Greenfield finally asks whether "mind-blowing" experiences might in fact form the basis of consciousness. Informed by the most recent neuroscience, "The Private Life of the Brain" develops new models with which to answer these questions.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st edition (1 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713991925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713991925
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 502,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

What's going on in there? One of the great scientific and philosophical mysteries is how a few pounds of wet, salty cobwebs can give rise to the rich experience that we call consciousness. Oxford neuroscientist Susan Greenfield peers inside the dimly lit skull to show us what she thinks is going on in The Private Life of the Brain. Greenfield has a great facility for explaining tricky scientific concepts in language that is engaging to all readers. She presents the basics of contemporary thought on consciousness as they relate to her own theory involving a continuum of experience between sensual, emotional grounding in the surrounding world and rational, cognitive withdrawal into mental life. Arguing from a wide range of animal and human research, as well as the work of philosophers such as John Searle and Daniel Dennett, she makes her case compellingly but gently, allowing that other theories might also hold in this still-uncharted territory. Looking in depth at depression, drug use, and fear, Greenfield shows how each is explained by her continuum theory and how each relates to the life of the human organism as a whole. Could it be true that as our minds work harder, our hearts lose some feeling, and vice versa? Whether or not the idea withstands time and testing, it is intriguing and thought-provoking, making The Private Life of the Brain essential reading for minds seeking self-enlightenment. --Rob Lightner

From the Inside Flap

How do our unique personalities emerge from our anatomically identical physical brains? What gives rise to our emotions? Why do some drugs make us ecstatic while others make us miserable? For centuries, the most elusive and tantalizing questions about how the human mind works were left to the esoteric realm of philosophers. But in the last decade, there has finally been an explosion of interest from those who study the physical brain. In this groundbreaking scientific exploration, internationally acclaimed neuroscientist and author Susan Greenfield demystifies the private life of the brain. Embarking on an excursion deep inside the human brain, Greenfield takes us beyond the intricate tangle of cells, electrical impulses, and molecules to examine the physical basis of our emotions and search for the answer to one of the most enduring mysteries in modern science: How is a unique, subjective experience generated in each one of us? Informed by years of cutting–edge research, as well as compelling personal anecdotes that we can all relate to, Greenfield reveals that emotions, triggered by individual life experiences, are the very foundation upon which our brains build our unique minds. Offering us a brain scientist’s perspective on the intricate dance of emotions and cognitive abilities, Greenfield asserts that this extraordinary sense of the self is inextricably bound to the often mercurial world of emotions. Rich in insights from such diverse realms as neuroscience, pharmacology, psychology, philosophy, and everyday life, The Private Life of the Brain traces the life of our mind and reveals how our childhood experiences; intense emotions like fear, depression, and euphoria; and the drugs that induce these extreme feelings dramatically affect who we are. She argues that emotions exist at the core of our selves to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how much we are using or losing our mind at any given moment. Timely and provocative, The Private Life of the Brain is a tour de force that provides an eye–opening look through the authoritative lens of neuroscience. Captivating for novices and experts alike, this intriguing book presents an enlightening journey into the human brain for anyone who has ever pondered the mystery of who we are and how the brain works. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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If someone told you that tomorrow you would lose your consciousness forever, how would you feel? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Private Life of The Brain 1 Sep 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Greenfield's book is accessible to the general reader with an interest in the field. She herself is a neuropharmacologist, but approaches this book with an open mind. her multidisciplinary approach makes for compulsive reading.
She is tackling an area that is undoubtedly an intellectual landmine. She does it with humour, and delivers an argument both persuasive and personal, both touching and scientific.
You may not agree with every point she makes, but you will definitely be glad that you gave her the chance.
One of the many things that i enjoyed about this book is the fact that it is not huge. Many books within the realm of popular science are far too dense. It is a relatively slim volume that gets striaght to the point. There is an appendix and a detailed set of end notes for those that are interested.
Fans of Antonio Damasio's The Feeling Of What Happens should enjoy this book.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Susan Greenfield takes us on a wondrous journey of the brain and the chemical processes that produce thoughts and emotions. By making it relevant to our own experiences of others and ourselves she provides an understanding of how the workings of our brains make us who we are. I particularly liked the way Dr. Greenfield uses her own personal experiences to bring alive some of the beautifully written explanations.
She has connected the science of the brain and mind to the behaviour of ourselves in a way that is accessible and understandable to the non-neuroscientist (I don't even have biology GCSE). As an engineer who thinks in pictures I would have benefited from some diagrams to help me understand the structure of the brain and particularly the different fountains of modulating amines.
The excellent "notes" for each chapter gave both further qualification of the narrative and good sources of further reading. I intend to obtain at least 4 further texts on the basis of these.
I identified with her struggle as a woman in scientific research and the limiting caution of research funding bodies, both of which she underplays hugely.
A thoroughly fascinating book. If you are interested in people and science, read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read several books on brain science, so not a complete newcomer. However, I'm not a neuroscientist, either, and this book drew the perfect line between the two, thoroughly explaining the experiments which have led to discoveries about consciousness and what happens in an individual's brain. What's more, the concept of self is explored. I think this would be a good place to begin one's studies of the brain.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but nothing new here 14 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As a Neuroscience Student, I read this book as part of my course, but having read other books by Susan Greenfield, there is nothing new here. The first few chapters are interesting for people new to the subject, but much of the content can be found in other books by Greenfield - The Human Brain:A Guided Tour and Brain Story. If you already have these titles, then I wouldn't bother buying this book. There are much better titles around.
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