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Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts Hardcover – 30 Jan 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Pr (30 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025435
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 448,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Ambitious . . . Dehaene offers nothing less than a blueprint for brainsplaining one of the world s deepest mysteries. . . . [A] fantastic book.
The Washington Post
Dehaene is a maestro of the unconscious.
Scientific American Mind
Brilliant Dehaene s special contribution is his global-workspace theory, the first step in a complete account of why some neural processes lead to conscious experience . Dehaene s account is the most sophisticated story about the neural basis of consciousness so far. It is essential reading for those who want to experience the excitement of the search for the mind in the brain.
--Chris Frith, Nature
In Consciousness and the Brain, [Dehaene] summaries the fruits of two decades of vigorous experimentation and modeling . The book introduces the methods that acted as midwife at the birth of a science of consciousness . Postulating that global availability of information is what we subjectively experience as a conscious state begets the question of why . Answering such questions requires an information-theoretical account of what type of data, communicated within what system, gives rise to conscious experience in biological or artificial organisms. Dehaene s well-written and well-sourced book avoids this, as this, as he opts to restrict it to behavioral and neuronal observables.
Christof Koch, Science
Consciousness tomes have become a dime a dozen over the past decade or so, with every last researcher feeling the need to join the fray. But Stanislas Dehaene is one of the few at the top of the disciplines involved philosophy, history, cognitive psychology, brain imaging, computer modelling to add something new.
New Scientist
An excellent teacher with a gift for vivid analogies, Dehaene writes that consciousness is like the spokesperson in a large institution . . . with a staff of a hundred billion neurons issuing briefs that tell us what we need to know moment by moment. He then explains his and his colleagues groundbreaking theory about the global neuronal workspace, where information is made available to the rest of the brain, wowing us with descriptions of our pyramidal neurons and their spiny dendrites and the discovery that each neuron cares about such specific stimuli as faces, hands, objects. A stunning delineation of the exquisite biological machinery that has made us an animal unlike any other.
Booklist, starred review
A revealing and definitely not dumbed-down overview of what we know about consciousness.
Kirkus Reviews
Stanislas Dehaene s remarkable book is the best modern treatment of consciousness I have read to date. Dehaene, a world-class scientist, has pioneered the development of a set of experiments for studying consciousness that have revolutionized the field and given us the first direct approach to its biology. Simply stated this book is a tour de force. It opens up a whole new world of intellectual exploration for the general reader.
Eric Kandel, author of In Search of Memory and The Age of Insight, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine"

"Ambitious . . . Dehaene offers nothing less than a blueprint for brainsplaining one of the world's deepest mysteries. . . . [A] fantastic book."
--The Washington Post
"Dehaene is a maestro of the unconscious."
--Scientific American Mind
"Brilliant... Dehaene's special contribution is his global-workspace theory, the first step in a complete account of why some neural processes lead to conscious experience.... Dehaene's account is the most sophisticated story about the neural basis of consciousness so far. It is essential reading for those who want to experience the excitement of the search for the mind in the brain."
--Chris Frith, Nature
"In Consciousness and the Brain, [Dehaene] summaries the fruits of two decades of vigorous experimentation and modeling.... The book introduces the methods that acted as midwife at the birth of a science of consciousness.... Postulating that global availability of information is what we subjectively experience as a conscious state begets the question of why.... Answering such questions requires an information-theoretical account of what type of data, communicated within what system, gives rise to conscious experience in biological or artificial organisms. Dehaene's well-written and well-sourced book avoids this, as this, as he opts to restrict it to behavioral and neuronal observables."
--Christof Koch, Science
"Consciousness tomes have become a dime a dozen over the past decade or so, with every last researcher feeling the need to join the fray. But Stanislas Dehaene is one of the few at the top of the disciplines involved - philosophy, history, cognitive psychology, brain imaging, computer modelling - to add something new."
--New Scientist
"An excellent teacher with a gift for vivid analogies, Dehaene writes that 'consciousness is like the spokesperson in a large institution . . . with a staff of a hundred billion neurons' issuing briefs that tell us what we need to know moment by moment. He then explains his and his colleagues' groundbreaking theory about the "global neuronal workspace," where information is made 'available to the rest of the brain, ' wowing us with descriptions of our pyramidal neurons and their spiny dendrites and the discovery that each neuron 'cares' about such specific stimuli as 'faces, hands, objects.' A stunning delineation of the "exquisite biological machinery" that has made us an animal unlike any other."
--Booklist, starred review
"A revealing and definitely not dumbed-down overview of what we know about consciousness."
--Kirkus Reviews
"Stanislas Dehaene's remarkable book is the best modern treatment of consciousness I have read to date. Dehaene, a world-class scientist, has pioneered the development of a set of experiments for studying consciousness that have revolutionized the field and given us the first direct approach to its biology. Simply stated this book is a tour de force. It opens up a whole new world of intellectual exploration for the general reader."
--Eric Kandel, author of In Search of Memory and The Age of Insight, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stanislas Dehaene was trained as a mathematician and psychologist before becoming one of the world's most active researchers on the cognitive neuroscience of language and number processing in the human brain. He is the director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit in Saclay, France, the professor of experimental cognitive psychology at the College de France, a member of the French Academy of Sciences and of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed scientific journals and is the author of The Number Sense and Reading in the Brain. He lives in France. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Review of Consciousness and the Brain
If you are interested the the latest techniques used by neuroscientists or medics to determine the level of consciousness any individual patient/individual has at any given time then this is the book for you. I found it interesting and easy to read. I progressed page by page saying to myself things like 'that's interesting', 'that makes sense' 'couldn't agree more' – until page 261 (5 pages from the end of the hardback version). And then the wheels fell off so to speak!

By moving from the area of his undoubted world class expertise (the strictly medical/scientific) into the wider area of philosophy and, specifically, subjectivity, I found that Dehaene was on less secure ground. I can agree with his take on the philosophical 'hot potato' of free will. He is very careful to include 'careful weighting of the pros and cons before committing to action' as part of this process of free will. (He doesn't seem to refer to very common situations where rage and fear 'short circuit' conscious deliberation.)

However, I am not at all convinced of his take on qualia – the subjective felt sensation – which is another philosophical 'hot potato'. My understanding of his position is that information (albeit self acquired through sensors) is not only the basis of felt sensation it is felt sensation. It doesn't seem to matter to Dehaene whether the information is conveyed/processed on biological 'wet tissue' or silicon and copper. To exaggerate for the sake of clarity - if the information could be conveyed/processed through concrete pipes it would still provide the same 'subjective felt sensation'.
Interestingly he and I both agree that D.
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Format: Paperback
I would like to start by saying that this is an excellent book because I have a particularly harsh criticism of it and I would not like to give the impression that the book is not worth reading.

It is the same criticism that can be levelled against Antonio Damasio. Despite the arrogance of Stephen Hawking that informs us that "philosophy is dead" (The Grand Design page 1) it is very much alive and scientists like Dehaene and Damasio show us why. As with any top academic or scientist they are excellent in their specialist field and the five star reviews here testify to that. Unfortunately, since the mysteries do still abound (despite Dehaene's various attempts to pretend they do not or are almost solved) philosophy has a great deal to offer and the almost laughably daft attempts by scientists to do philosophy in their books makes this clear. To try and refute the positions of Ned Block and David Chalmers in less than two pages at the end of this book is an unworthy and cavalier approach that no philospher would engage in. Dehaene's arguments here are unstructured and poorly presented in contrast to his writing on topics within his field of expertise. Read the philosophers in the field of studying consciousness and you will find that the way they work is far more systematic, thorough and clearly referenced than the "let's do a bit of philosophy now" that finds its way into these books that are meant to be informing us about the state of the art in the research field. If you want to know about the research this book is excellent but be very wary of the attempts at theorising and philosophizing that go beyond the researched evidence base.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dehaene describes the extent of unconscious processing. An input can be unconsciously processed to an advanced level, and what comes into consciousness is a small and heavily edited version of the original stimuli. He does not, however, see this as justifying the claim that everything is performed by the unconscious. He views consciousness as having been selected for its specific functions. He envisages a natural division of labour between unconscious and conscious processing. This is related to the necessity when acting in the world, to move from balances of probability in the unconscious, to decision taking at the conscious level. Unconscious information is transient whereas conscious information is more stable. One function of consciousness is to create stable images as the basis of decision taking. The stimuli can therefore be evaluated, used to plan actions, and memorised for future use.

Unconscious stimuli propagate a long way into the brain, but are amplified when they move into consciousness, boosting activity in the parietal and frontal regions. Substantial changes in the higher visual areas were apparent whenever consciousness was reported. The level of activity could rise as much as twelve-fold. In contrast, a wide range of frontal and parietal areas remained inactive if the stimuli were unconscious. Unconscious stimuli are active in the early visual cortex, but lose strength as they progress through the cortex. On the hand, conscious stimuli pick up strength as they progress.

Many neurons in the anterior lobe respond only to when specific features, such as particular people or buildings are consciously perceived. So the move into consciousness is not brain-wide, but relates to specific neurons.
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