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The 21st Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind Hardcover – 3 Mar 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (3 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224062549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224062541
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,062,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A clear, thorough and up-to-date account of current brain science -- Rita Carter Focus magazine, May 2005

Especially valuable -- Nigel Jones, The Times, 22nd March 2005

If you are interested in brains or having a mind you must read it -- Mike Holderness, New Scientist, April

Book Description

A compelling and authoritative study of the brain - its past, present and future - aimed squarely at the general reader. (2004-07-02)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J. Jones on 15 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The 21st Century Brain takes the reader on a tour of the brain and many of the major issues related to the study of what it is to be human. The chapters are ordered logically and include discussion of what is known and what is contentious. I really liked the writing style of this book but perhaps this is helped by having more than a passing familiarity with the subject matter. Steven Rose to my mind encapsulates what a good lecturer should be; knows their subject at lots of different levels and is acutely aware of the gaps and questions yet to be answered. The book overs the detail of a traditional text book but manages to engage the reader through frequent changes in perspective and level of detail.

I found his sometimes sarcastic approach to the confidence of other researchers/theorists really refreshing. Too many books in neurosciences today are caught up on the idea of 'brilliant', 'heroic' researchers who are at the cutting edge of knowledge and whose research will ultimately revolutionise how we see the world. Rose is far more modest in his endeavours.

If I had any complaints about this book it would probably be his undisguised contempt for Steven Pinker (which is never really explored) and Rose's frequent references to Hilary Rose (his wife). I think if you are going to quote someone you know well you should do the courtesy of exploring their ideas rather than repeat their descriptive phrases. Other than that, I'd highly recommend this book.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Reader from Devon on 1 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
This book has many interesting reflections on the unwarranted assumptions that underlie research endeavours in the field of neuroscience. Steven Rose makes important points, but sad to say, in many places he uses an abstruse vocabulary that removes it from the category of 'easy reading'. Previously, I had read "Not in Our Genes," which Steven Rose co-authored with Richard Lewontin and Leon Kamin. I don't know which of them wrote which parts, but the readability of the chapters varied enormously. The prose in the chapter on schizophrenia was so clumsy and convoluted it was painful to read. So before tackling "The 21st Century Brain" I browsed a couple of reviews online. Both warned that it was not easy reading. Consequently, I borrowed a copy from the library rather than make a purchase. To be fair, the book does actually contain many passages that aren't heavy going. I liked the bon-mots from his sociologist wife, Hilary Rose - 'internal phrenology' and 'consumer eugenics'. However, I do agree with the blogger who suggested that Steven Rose should do as V.S. Ramachandran did with "Phantoms in the Brain" and team up with a skilled popular science journalist. If a bestseller was the result, that would more than compensate for sharing the royalties.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim Smith on 26 April 2010
Format: Paperback
Steven Rose is a Biology professor and this book is written from that neuroscience perspective, with especially interesting insights on the biological structure of the brain.

It also looks at the history of the science of the subject, evolutionary perspective on understanding brains/minds, the embryonic perspective as well - which in some senses mimics evolution duriong teh nine months.

He doesn't really answer the brain/mind question satisfactorily for me. Still attempting to say there is something more than just a switched on brain but not explaining what it is.

Final part of teh book is a very interesting look into possible futures where people take mind enhancing drugs or genetically select offspring and the implcations for some of these choice society will have to face up to.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Emperor on 13 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who knows very little about the subject I enjoyed this book. The author is very good at explaining complex ideas and it is well written. Occasionally it could be a bit too discursive and I got the impression that he had a few scores to settle with professional rivals so the book might be a bit biased.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
From neuroscience to neurotechnology 28 Sept. 2005
By Simon Laub - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As the brain is a complicated object - books on it tend to

be either completely engulfed in neuroscientific lingo and details or very popular, over-simplistic. Steven Rose strikes a nice balance between the two.

The book begins with a an evolutionary story starting from proto-cells in the pre-biotic soup to axons, dendrites, synapses and brain "modules" A brilliant tour I might add.

Lots of details and insights that I found a joy to read.

Throughout it is stressed that the brain's developmental history

is made in interaction with the environment to determine what it is going to be, how it works and why. Even though the subject matter is very complex Steven Rose manages to give the needed overview.

Sometimes Steven Rose pops up with strong views on subjects I would have thought to be widely accepted. E.g. Personally I don't agree that Richard Dawkins meme-theory is as bad as Steven Rose makes it out to be - one could argue that the evolutionary idea is for biological things, not for meme ideas, but I wouldn't be upset if someone would say that evolution works fine on memes as well. But nevermind, it won't distract you from the overall narrative.

The last chapters are devoted to a human future where neuroscience might become neurotechnology for mending and manipulating the mind. Even though much of it is speculative Steven Rose seems to be able to tell science from science fiction, and therefore be a valuable voice in the debate.

I haven't read "The Future of the Brain", also by Steven Rose, so I wouldn't be able to tell, if they are identical - but I can tell you that this book is a brilliant read!

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
British Publication 27 Jan. 2006
By Ted W. Stolze - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In response to the ill-informed reviewer who thinks that this "duplicate" publication indicates Steven Rose's academic dishonesty: this is simply the British publication. Isn't it common knowledge that publication rights differ between the U.S. and Britain?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Unique Approach to Brain Science 27 Sept. 2013
By Roanuk - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rose takes a unique perspective on the scientific community, criticizing other fields such as behavioural genetics and evolutionary psychology while describing various sub topics of neuroscience. Overall the idea that Rose is trying to convey is that the brain cannot be oversimplified to manipulating dopamine levels while we still do not fully understand brain function. I thought this book was very informative and helped me to understand how neuroscience can be related to other scientific fields of inquiry.
Rose discusses pharmacuticals and the use of prescription drugs such as ritalin in schools today. He emphasizes that such learning drugs are similar to steroids that are banned from use in sports. Similar methods such as brain magnets and gene therapy could potentially be used for the same purpose of boosting brain power. He also makes it known that most modern research is done for the sake of marketable knowledge and not intellectual curiosity. He takes a cautious approach and says about Alzheimers: "The short answer is, we don't know.' We do know some things. We know that the nostrums currently available do not work. We do know that women are far more susceptible than men of the same age."
I enjoyed reading this book because of the unique perspective Rose has of the scientific community because of his long time work in neuroscience.
The book is less than 300 pages and is a fairly easy read, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the future of brain science and its impacts on the world.
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Reactionary grumblings against transhumanism 19 Dec. 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In the first chapter, Steven Rose positions his book as a critique of the transhumanist agenda from the perspective of a professional neuroscientist. From the outset Rose paints a picture of himself as a serious scientist - a wise elder - cautioning the world against the dangerous quackery that arises when scientists from other, "less-qualified" disciplines, such as psychology, computer science, or evolutionary biology, have the impudence to start speculating about the human condition. The patronising way he deals with the entire subject of memetics in a single-paragraph put-down -- ".. the notion of so-called memes ... now taken seriously by many who should know better" tipifies the tone of the entire book.

This is not a book that builds up a coherent rational thesis about the brain or transhumanism. Instead, Rose prefers to rant at sociobiology and transhumanism by picking easy, isolated, targets for ridicule. Whilst some of his points are good, and serve to expose some of the hype around short-term promises of pharmacalogical utopia, on the bigger issues of whether some form of transhumanism is desirable or possible in-principle, he essentialy indulges in straw-man rhetoric.

Overall, Rose makes it clear that he really doesn't like this silly transhumanist stuff very much, but fails to tackle the big issues in any profound way.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Good Start, Lame End 6 Sept. 2009
By Jiang Xueqin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Steven Rose's "The 21st Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the MInd" starts strong, but fails to live up to its promise.

It is typical in publishing nowadays for authors to come up with a gimmicky pitch and write well the first 100 pages in order to secure a publisher's advance. Then the author is overwhelmed by stress or depression or just plain laziness, and fails to deliver the rest of the book. That seems to be the case with this book.

Consider the praise that the book chooses to put on its front and back covers. "A timely book on a timely subject," says the Observer. "An elegantly written and cogent guide to contemporary ideas and how and why the brain works," says the Independent. "An excellent account of neuroscience today," says the Financial Times.

From this praise alone we can discern two things. Steven Rose has nothing new or interesting to say about neuroscience, and the reviewers probably haven't read the book.

Indeed, it's difficult to read this book, which while written eloquently is very academic. Putting in perspective the billions of years of development of the brain is certainly useful, but it need not be couched in such technical, academic language; "The Accidental Mind" written by neuroscientist David Linden is a good example of how to explain the development of the brain in clear, simple terms.

And for whatever reason Steven Rose chooses to spend a great many pages attacking evolutionary psychology, which he claims correctly spends too much theorizing and not enough time researching. He's also quite upset by how evolutionary psychology fails to acknowledge "neuroplasticity," and instead harps on an "architecture of the mind." This is all true, but Steven Pinker, while outrageous most of the time, does pose interesting questions and provide interesting frameworks for thinking about the brain.

The final half of the book is just pointless, as Steven Rose ruminates pointlessly and endlessly on the ethics of a possible "Brave New World" situation where everyone is medicated into a dead, sullen happiness.

There are a lot better books about neuroscience out there, and this book got published because it was "a timely book on a timely subject."
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