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Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence Hardcover – 4 Apr 2008
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CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2009
'On a planet in which everything seems to be getting bigger (the internet), hotter (our climate) or more numerous (the world's population), Gary Lynch and Rick Granger reveal the intriguing possibility that people with larger brains than us may have been around a few thousand years ago. Their account of the mysteries of the brain and intelligence challenges conventional views in a scholarly yet wonderfully accessible manner.' - Prof. Richard Morris, Director, Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems, University of Edinburgh, UK, President, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, Former chair, Brain Research Association of the United Kingdom
'The Lynch and Grainger combination is like mixing gas with fire. In this book there are big, explosive ideas by two ingenious brain scientists.' - Michael Gazzaniga, author of The Ethical Brain
'The brain makes all our hopes, dreams, and fears possible. How did it come to be this way? Look no further than this book. This fascinating and provocative account of the human brain's recent past reminds us that the thing that makes us who we are is a continuously changing organ, and begs the question of where our species is headed next.' – Joseph LeDoux, author of The Emotional Brain
'I've been waiting for someone to write this book for years. I almost wrote it myself – twice – but was distracted by other projects. Now Gary Lynch and Richard Granger have written a much-needed book on big brains.'
William H. Calvin, University of Washington writing in New Scientist
'In this richly illustrated book Lynch and Granger compare the modern brain with that of the Boskop and come to some startling conclusions. Among other things they speculate on how mind power is governed by the size of the brain.' - Good Book Guide
'...a riveting account of how the human brain evolved.' - Nicole Branan, Scientific American Mind
A radical and cutting-edge consideration of the past, present and future of memory, cognition and intelligence.See all Product description
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I will be up front and state that I have read a significant amount of the book and in my opinion it is well reasoned, it is well presented, and as far as I have read based on reasonable evidence.
I would recommend it as readable and it opens up a number of matters which should be considered and discussed.
Mervyn K. Vogt
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This book talked too much about the Boskops which was a distraction.
The best part was the theoretical framework for understanding how the human brain evolved from prototype reptilian-dinosaur and primitive mammalian systems.He builds it up step by step.
I also liked his discussion of paleocortex versus neocortex. Human neurons have more interconnections than those of other primates.
Physical body health is all about keeping the arteries open. Brain health is all about making and maintaining neuronal connections.
The mention of the Lionel Standing paper on 10,000 pictures and visual memory was also very interesting.
Particularly interesting is the use of a computational model to suggest how corticothalamic oscillations refine cognition from category to specific example.
The writing style is occasionally incoherent, and the figures are sometimes less than illuminating, but by and large the concepts are presented in an understandable way to the layman.
Unfortunately the authors have succumbed to the temptation to increase the book's sales by adding some pop-science speculation on the future of human intelligence, and by presenting as fact the rather far-fetched notion that a separate hominid species with super-sized brains(the Boskops) lived among us as recently as 10,000 years ago and then became mysteriously extinct. Entertaining, but definitely at odds with the more serious and well-grounded topics that make up the bulk of the book.
All in all, a good read for anyone without a background in the field who would like to learn something about recent developments in the science of the brain.
This is a very interesting fact, but the authors use it to make questionable arguments concerning the adaptive significance of the large human brain. They show that there is a constant ratio of newborn size to adult relative brain size, and conclude that whatever led humans to have large, relatively infantile newborns is the cause of humanity's uniquely powerful intelligence. They then say that by walking upright, the human female was capable of producing a much larger newborn. Since walking upright has little to do with intelligence, they conclude that human intelligence is a byproduct of bipedalism.
The problem with this argument is that bipedalism may have lowered the cost of producing large, big-brained newborns, but the cost was still very high, in the form of maternal mortality. Hence there must have been some fitness benefit to the large human brain.
The writing and the reasoning in this book are not tight, and some of the arguments questionable. But it is lively, instructive, and has lots of nice drawings. There are many interesting asides that keep the reader's attention. Their discussion of race, an elaboration on Lewontin's argument, has been superseded in the literature, but the exposition is very creative.
I found this book interesting, but beyond their argument about bigger brains, I didn't find anything startlingly new. Most of what they presented is information about how the brain is believed to work and how it allows us to think and learn. They did focus on some intriguing mutations that are found in the occasional person where said person has gifts some of us don't have while also having disabilities that we don't have.
The book is an interesting read and does provide some solid information for people who are just learning about neuroscience. It's perspective on evolution is also intriguing, but there are other works that provide more insight into how the brain works than this book will.