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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book for the General Reader on this Subject
The brain is probably the most complicated and sophisticated object we are ever likely to encounter. Many aspects have remained a mystery (and many others still do) but this book opens the lid on many of them. Because the subject is so entwined with every aspect of our lives, it has taken a remarkable book to try to bring it all together and answer many of the questions...
Published 13 months ago by John Pullen

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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
This is an interesting and easily read book. Unfortunately the author has not included any references or bibliography .This is a serious flaw because he makes some very interesting and controversial points but the reader is unable to find out more or check the author's conclusions because no detailed information is given.
I know this is a 'popular' science book and...
Published 14 months ago by val


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book for the General Reader on this Subject, 1 April 2014
By 
John Pullen (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer's (Hardcover)
The brain is probably the most complicated and sophisticated object we are ever likely to encounter. Many aspects have remained a mystery (and many others still do) but this book opens the lid on many of them. Because the subject is so entwined with every aspect of our lives, it has taken a remarkable book to try to bring it all together and answer many of the questions we may ask and also many that we have not thought to ask.
The medical facts and the author's personal opinions are well thought out and presented. This is a subject I am trained in and I have produced both books and documentaries on related aspects of this subject and it has helped to answer some of the questions I have posed to myself.
If you want to try to better understand yourself and the people around you, then you can do no better than this book as a start into perhaps the most fascinating subject you can think of.

John Pullen
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumentally Important Reality Check and Myth Buster, 17 Jan. 2014
By 
David Wineberg "David Wineberg" (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
DF Swaab's book on the brain is a revelation. He uses this lifelong passion for neurology to strip away the falsehoods. The details of the state of our knowledge is up to the minute, right from the front lines of research. It's a breeze to read, but it's still a tough slog. It's not filled with overwhelming five dollar words, but there is so much to absorb in every paragraph, I found myself constantly going back to make sure I got it all and got it right. Its importance to everyday understanding of ourselves is towering.

The book is structured along the lines of life, from conception to death and all the different ways the brain performs at the various stages. And it is demonstrably different at every age. The description of the unborn's connection to the mother's brain is alone worth the price of admission.

I particularly appreciated Swaab's debunking of "pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo" such as homosexuality being a chosen, learned, environmental condition (including overbearing, dominant mothers), or any number of other diseases and conditions that are also entirely programmed before birth and develop later.Environment can make absolutely no difference, he says.

The brain is not fully formed at birth and doesn't reach its full size, shape and structure until our mid 20s. It does continue to grow, it can repair itself and it does compensate for damage, despite our being taught that we peak at age 16 and brain cells just die off from that point and are never replaced.

Another "fact" we have backwards is that difficult births cause brain development problems. Swaab shows it is precisely the other way around: difficult labor/births are consequences of brain development problems. This frank, direct information is sadly lacking in general circulation.Some other tidbits along the way:

-It was not until 1940s that scientists discovered the brain produced hormones, and doctors castigated and vilified Ernst and Berta Scharrer for making such an absurd claim.
-Eye contact between two women leads to more creative outcomes. Eye contact by men prevents them coming to terms.
-Given dolls and toy cars, baby monkeys always choose according to gender - dolls for females, cars for males.
-The brains of rabbits raised in hutches are 15-30% smaller than in wild rabbits that develop their wits and skills - Charles Darwin, 1871
-Segregating children in belief-based schools is "pernicious". It not only prevents them from learning how to think critically, but it also fosters an intolerant attitude towards other beliefs.
-Boxing is "neuropornography". Watching it is like taking an entire course in neurology. You see impaired speech, unsteady gait, wandering eyes, epileptic fits, semi-consciousness, unconsciousness, and occasionally, brain death. Right on TV, for the whole family. 400 boxers have been killed in the past 70 years. "Civilized" nations have banned it.

After describing the incredibly destructive effects of Ecstasy and the new, extraordinarily potent cannabis, he lists a string of US presidents (among others) and asks why we don't subject these world leaders to the same substance abuse standards we have for ordinary say, drivers? When Kennedy (cocaine), Nixon (alcohol), Clinton (cannabis), and Bush (cocaine, alcohol) all abused to offensive extents, you have to wonder if the world could have been a better place.

Swaab says 90% of Dutch prisoners have mental disorders and that criminal law should only be applied to people with healthy brains. The justice system should be evidence-based. While we do try new approaches, it's never done scientifically (with a control group), so the results will always be suspect.Lawyers, not researchers, get to experiment. Most criminals need treatment. Imprisonment, probation, halfway houses and community service do nothing to treat them, cure them or prevent them from acting out again.

There is an unexpected section on the mental illnesses of religious figures, who all (self) describe the classic symptoms of frontal lobe epilepsy. The 18 symptoms include voices, hallucinations, temporary blindness, and more. The figures include Paul, Mohammed, Van Gogh, Dostoyevsky and Joan of Arc, who extensively documented their (almost identical) experiences for the ages. They received their directions directly from Jesus and/or God, and became deeply religious. Non-Christian epileptics do not have the same communication sources.

He also debunks various paranormal and spiritual explanations for things like out-of-body experiences, by showing exactly where in the brain that pressure or stimulation will cause these phenomena.

Having read Swaab's sobering analysis of dementia and Alzheimer's, I became concerned when he began repeating himself: the same stories about the same patients. But late in the book he reveals that this all came from a series of columns a newspaper asked him to write, which neatly provides a non-demented alibi. Still, a little more editing would help.

I would have liked more detail in two areas: how character forms, develops and maintains or changes, and the effects of pollutants in air, water, and food. Swaab totally ignores the up and coming field of environmental medicine, which posits that the dose is not what makes the poison, another "fact" we have wrong. Chemical compounds our bodies can never encounter in nature latch on to receptors meant for messengers from our brains. They wreak havoc, as the body not only doesn't know what to do with them, but must accept them. And they block the intended messengers. The result is a large number of "new" chronic diseases that are changing the face of medicine - and life.

We Are Our Brains is technically, pure dry medical science. But it elicits feelings and emotions far stronger than works of fiction. The drama of people entering eras of illness they take years to even understand, let alone cope with and work around, is moving, disconcerting and frightening. The things that can go wrong and the atomic level sources of them is intimidating. The immense body of knowledge we have amassed just in the last hundred years is so insignificant it is awesome.

David Wineberg
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 1 Mar. 2014
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This is the most important book I have read for some time. Dick Swaab's clinical view of human behaviour is both praiseworthy and rather frightening.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary, 11 Dec. 2014
By 
Ms. Abigail J. Rhodes "Josie Rhodes" (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer's (Hardcover)
Extraordinary book that takes the reader through all aspects of the brain and its functions. Simple and easy to read, with little to no jargon, but scientific enough to leave the reader feeling that they have a basic grounding in today's neuroscience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting, 31 Mar. 2014
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Slightly heavy content, but told with a light touch. Really interesting stuff and changed my perception on a wide range of issues - now I know what I'm talking about!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It was a bit technical for me but for all ..., 15 July 2014
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This review is from: We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer's (Hardcover)
It was a bit technical for me but for all that i was able to understand the explanations and the practical applications and implications. Very interesting.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must read", 1 Feb. 2014
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 - See all my reviews
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A blockbuster of a book, the best general introduction to brain science I have seen, and written by an expert in the field, too. I was gripped from cover to cover.

Some of the implications make for uncomfortable reading, particularly for politicians and law enforcers, and religions too, but what Swaab says needs to be said, and needs a larger audience.

Advanced proof supplied by NetGalley.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allow yourself to be provoked!, 20 Feb. 2014
By 
M. D. Holley (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer's (Hardcover)
This is exceptional! I like a book to provoke, and this one certainly does.

it is so refreshing to read a Dutch author. This book has that typically blunt and direct style which is characteristic of the Dutch. Swaab is not afraid to offend. Time after time he just comes right out with thoroughly provocative statements. Some of these are breathtakingly shocking,and force you to re-evaluate your ideas of morality. For example, he questions how paedophiles should be dealt with; whether criminal law needs thorough reassessment; whether exercise is good for you.

There are many surprising revelations: that brain cells can be kept alive in a culture for months after death; that some people in the west still sacrifice their children to their gods and get away with it; that people alone on mountains tend to hallucinate and have religious experiences.

In the first chapter I wondered where he was headed - he plunges straight into a detailed description of what happens in the brains of baby and mother (and father!) during birth. Don't be put off, and try to keep reading. This description of birth will inform many of the key ideas which recur throughout the book.

You are likely to learn wonderful gems about the brain and how it works on nearly every page. The scope of the book is incredibly broad. All of life's experience is in here. I loved the chapter on memory. This chapter demolished the rather hazy arguments I read about memory a couple of years ago in Rupert Sheldrake's book 'The Science Delusion'.

Towards the end there is a fascinating discussion of euthanasia. I could not imagine the subject being handled in such a brave, straightforward manner by any English speaking author. It made me envious to see how far ahead the Dutch are on this sensitive topic.

Thoroughly recommended!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, 6 Feb. 2014
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This an excellent and entertaining book, packed with information and personal philosophy but for someone with little technical knowledge can be difficult to follow. It is somewhere between a series of anecdotes and a text book. I found it very frustrating as I knew I would only be able to retain a small fraction of the facts without re-reading. Not one for religious fantasists/fanatics. Some great quotes.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 13 Feb. 2014
This is an interesting and easily read book. Unfortunately the author has not included any references or bibliography .This is a serious flaw because he makes some very interesting and controversial points but the reader is unable to find out more or check the author's conclusions because no detailed information is given.
I know this is a 'popular' science book and so I would not expect a huge amount of technical detail but there is no detail of any kind given to back up the authors arguments.I know the author is an eminent neuroscientist and researcher so the lack of supporting references is all the more surprising...he should know better!
I was very much looking forward to reading this book but I dont feel I can rely on his observations and so in the end its just a book of anecdotes.
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We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer's
We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer's by Dick Swaab (Hardcover - 16 Jan. 2014)
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