Making Up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World Paperback – 3 May 2007
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" Making up the Mind is an excellent ′big picture′ book. Exactly as its subtitle indicates, this book describes how our brains construct an internal model of the world that enables us to successfully interact with others and generally navigate a complex world." ( Psychology Learning and Training, Autumn 2008)
"Neuroscience and psychology often struggle to answer the really interesting questions about the mind, but in this fascinating book, Chris Frith shows that science can finally start explaining how and why we experience the world as we do. Anyone interested in human nature – not just the nuts and bolts of neural circuits – will find his storytelling compelling. Frith delves into topics such as delusions, illusions, imagination and imitation, bringing clarity and insight to the simplest abservations and most complex experiments alike." (New Scientist)
"Making up the Mind is an interesting book to everybody who wants to learn more about how the brain gives rise to our mental experiences...As Frith himself depicts in a sort of framing story, you will easily find yourself talking about these ideas at your next dinner party, as well as use it for serious considerations on the brain or as a toolbox for next term′s essay. A stimulating new book by a distinguished scientist who knows what he is talking about." ( Metapsychology Online Reviews)
"Frith has produced an enthralling discussion on the subtle links between mind and brain, sometimes with humorous liaisons between himself, as narrator, and others who might be labelled as sceptics, unbelievers."(Psychologist)
Stands apart from many that have been written lately For those who have time to read only one book this should be it. Essential. (Choice Reviews)
Oliver Sacks"Making up the Mind is a fascinating guided tour through the elusive interface between mind and brain written by a pioneer in the field. The authors obvious passion for the subject shines through every page."
V. S. Ramachandran
"I soon made up my mind that this is an excellent, most readable and stimulating book. The author is a distinguished neuroscientist working especially on brain imaging."
RL Gregory, Experimental Psychology
"Chris Frith, one of the pioneers in applying brain imaging to study mental processes, has written a brilliant introduction to the biology of mental processes for the general reader. This superb book describes how we recreate in our brains a representation of the external world. Clearly and beautifully written, this book is for all who want to learn about how the brain gives rise to the mental phenomenon of our lives. A must read!"
Eric R. Kandel, M.D.
"Important and surprising. The brain will never seem the same again."
Lewis Wolpert, University College London
"Frith s luminously intelligent book...raises interesting questions about how it is possible to make serious scientific progress, on the borders of metaphysics, while still thinking inside a framework that is an ontological and epistemological muddle."
Raymond Tallis, Brain
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This book is unique because while highly appropriate and illuminating for complete novices in neuroscience, it is also detailed and deep enough to captivate readers with expertise in the field. Both types of readers will be enriched by the coherent picture this book draws of cognitive neuroscience, and what implications brain research has for our understanding of interpersonal interactions and the development of human culture.
questioning/didactic; philosophical/scientific; and to be forward-looking
yet while also giving a succinct historical overview of highlights from the past 30 years of research in neuropsychology and neuroscience, through to the latest breakthroughs in brain imaging. Essential reading for novices and experts alike.
Frith had the good fortune to enter the field as the new, non-intrusive methods of brain imaging were emerging. Big, cumbersome and expensive, these tools, the PET, fMRI and CAT scanning devices soon came into more widespread use. These machines could map the living brain, while patients could be queried or given tests to assist in determining which brain areas were active at a given time. Frith describes these tools as moving brain studies from a "soft" science to a "hard" science in which detailed measurements could be made. Previously, it was either guess-work, or brains could be analysed only after a patient's death.
What has emerged from these studies is a very serious challenge to what we call "reality" and our perception of it. The brain does many things without our realising it. Apart from the obvious ones like keeping the heart and lungs pumping, there is the issue of what we "see". We like to think that when we "look" at something or somebody, we are seeing a continuous image. That's simply not the case. Beyond the fact that the eye undergoes a rapid shifting motion called "saccading", it's also converting photons into electrical signals. The brain must interpret the incoming messages and make sense of them. When it finally sends a message to the frontal cortex, an "image" has been recorded and you are now in a position to react to it.
The many vagaries in the operation of the brain in creating the mind, lead many in the humanities to scorn cognitive neuroscience. Frith uses his English professor as a foil to challenge the value of his work. "You can't pin down the mind like a specimen in a display case", he has her intone. But Frith's work and that of the many researchers he cites, demonstrates the fallacy of believing that we are in control of our minds.
Vision is but one area where the brain must interpret input and build a result for you to understand. The brain has developed a number of tricks to help itself produce something meaningful from what the senses tell it. The chief resource in this mental technique is memory. From our earliest years, the brain has been recording and cataloguing various inputs to assist in the formation of what we think we perceive. A point that must be remembered through all this is that the catalog isn't something that the devices can pinpoint for us to analyse. Memory, though it has fairly well-defined pathways, is part of a very dynamic and elusive system. What it produces for our conscious use is highly arbitrary. The brain may serve up memory images almost as a whim. Very little of it is under our control, yet we continue to assert we are given "free will". Frith doesn't deny there's an element of will in how we think, but it's anything but "will" in an absolute sense. And we must be cautious about how free of constraints it is. Since the brain is faced with countless episodes of false information, such as optical illusions, those memories we depend upon as the foundation for decisions, "free will" comes close to being meaningless.
For the person new to the ideas and research being done in how the brain works, this book is the ideal starting point. It's invaluable for the concepts it introduces and explains - so far as is known, and does so in a compelling manner. While he chides the English teacher on the one hand, he pays attention to her comments as a lever for introducing a topic needing further explanation. And his explanations, while challenging some long-held philosophical notions, demonstrate how much we've learned, yet still need to know about the brain. A fine gift for a student seeking a career path. What we learn about the brain tells us a great deal about who we are. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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In fact, it is a great book about consciousness too.Read more
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