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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Private Life of The Brain
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...
Published on 1 Sep 2003

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but nothing new here
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...
Published on 14 Nov 2001


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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Private Life of The Brain, 1 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars How the workings of the brain makes us who we are., 20 Sep 2001
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars A good place to either start or continue studies of the brain, 17 Dec 2010
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This review is from: The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
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
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good non-technical introduction, marred by poor editing, 27 July 2000
By A Customer
Don't be put off by the subject matter; this book is extremely readable, even to non-experts. Prof Greenfield clearly illustrates some basics of neuroscience (with the use of amusing metaphors), before setting out her own theories of conciousness (which are controversial but interesting). Even to those who have some knowlegdge of the field, this book provides a lively overview, and looks at some ideas from new angles.
What spoils the book is its tendancy towards repetition, which quicky becomes wearing when one reads more than a few chapters at one sitting (for example, I'm sure many other readers will tire of the author's apparent obsession with her mortgage). A bit of editing wouldn't go amiss before the release of the paperback.
Recommended, despite its flaws.
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3.0 out of 5 stars writing style is annoying, 3 May 2014
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This review is from: The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
My biggest gripe about this book is Greenfield's frequent tendency to use huge run-on sentences. It's almost tiresome to read. I felt drained at the end of nearly every sentence. So I had to deduct a star for that reason.

The second star was reduced because the footnotes are in the back of the book! This always annoys me. When I read a book I like to relax, not flip through the book everytime I stumble across a notation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 11 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Great book for getting an overview of how our brains work and work that still needs to be done to answer those questions.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well writ neuroscience for armchair and tutorial room alike., 28 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This is a must for those wanting to add an up-to-date and readable book containing 'mind' or 'brain' in the title to their collection. Greenfield argues for consciousness to be more than mind, and proposes that we look to our emotional life for clues as to its emergence and continuity. In a crude nutshell, we are asked to believe that "the interaction between body and brain IS consciousness" and that whereas the mind needs the brain (alone ?), consciousness requires the neuronal brain plus its modulatory interaction with the hormonal system(s) of the body as a whole. (i.e., the brain is necessary, but not sufficient to produce consciousness).
In a little more detail, although this volume provides the reader with an attempt to distinguish mind from consciousness, we are at the same time given a model continuum with 'emotion' at one end and 'mind' at the other; the goal of neuroscience (of whatever flavour its researcher) being to uncover the 'Rosetta Stone' of the physical brain Vs emotion/consciousness. Starting with the thesis that emotions are suppressed by logic and reason, we are taken on a tour of metaphysical models of mind-brain coexistence and a useful series of historical analogies of self-hood persistence are drawn from the literature. What an agent does (behaviourally) is rightly in my view distinguished from what it might think or understand (concerning its situation), but Greenfield pushes for the further dependence upon consciousness to underly true understanding. What of consciousness itself, here as elswhere in the book, there is little new. The middle chapters concerning specific brain regions, their known behavioural correlates, and their modulation by the use of both clinical and street drugs are well written in a style accessible to the general reader, but perhaps cloud the formation of the 'bigger picture'. However, such might be beyond the remit of this volume, requiring a different vocabulary and indeed a couple more chapters. The standard amine neurotransitter stories are appropriately given, but I am left wondering whether we have really come thereby to know how (as opposed to that) "feelings influence thoughts" before before turning to how "thoughts influence feelings" ? (concluding Ch.6). Discusing the ways in which thoughts and words might give rise to our emotional sensations is 'difficult' because we are unclear as to 'the physical stimuli and triggers [which] impinge upon the senses' - but this begs the question as if other behaviours such as sensorymotor transformations are already understood. Even if emotions are found to be "the most basic form of consciousness" as Greenfield contends, I'm not convinced that such a view helps me to know what consciousness IS (either for myself or another). Indeed, I'm rather afraid that this might result in the term dissappearing following the phenomenon being explained away [cf the eliminative materialism of Churchland]. It is only in the latter two chapters that Greenfield comes clean, adding the effects of the (traditionally separated) endocrine system in progressing our understanding of consciousness (as opposed to merely describing the brain-mind). Keeping the two systems apart, Greenfield introduces peptides as "vying between the brain and the rest of the body", affecting neuronal assemblies (as they do) and thus the extent, type and degree of consciousness experienced. This is all intuitively plausible, but no clear mechanisms are offerred here. I felt that the warrant for a further chapter had been given and wanted to know Greenfield's view as to how this might come together re the mind-brain correlates already 'in-the-bag' with regards neural plasticity in growth and development. I was expecting to go on to read, for example, how circulating hormones were involved in quite different time-courses of events (as the appendix discussed fast quantum theoretical proposition effects dismissively in contrast to the millisecond events occuring at the synapse) but there was no mention of the mush (significantly) longer min/hour/daylong effects of hormonal releases in contrast to synaptic (electrical and chemical) transmission. Furthermore, no mention was made of work [e.g., Dixson (Camb) and Tom Insel (Emory)] currently attempting to determine the effects of hormonal regulation upon gene expression and its effects upon the developing nervous system (both postnatally and in utero). Such an inclusion would have provided for me a more rounded closure.Maybe in adulthood more rationality does appear to be correlated with decreased emotionality - instant by instant - but in that case, how does one get 'high' on one's own intellectualism ? And, somewhat tongue in cheek, might plants with auxin circulation (a botanical equivalent of an animal hormone) have consciousness but no mind ?
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The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science)
The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science) by Susan Greenfield (Paperback - 28 Feb 2002)
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