Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life Paperback – 3 May 2005
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Howard Rheingold author of "Smart Mobs" Johnson's first-person account of the experiential and neuroscientific aspects of daily life is lucid, illuminating, entertaining, and thought-provoking. You'll find yourself thinking about thinking -- while you are thinking -- in a whole new way.
Steven Pinker Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of "The Blank Slate" and "How the Mind Works""Mind Wide Open" is a lucid and engaging travelogue from the frontiers of human brain science. Steven Johnson has an eye for the most interesting new ideas in this exploding field, and he explains them with insight and gusto.
David Shenk author of "The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic" What good is living in an age of discovery if only a handful of people understand what's being discovered? With this book, Steven Johnson builds an extraordinary bridge between today's trailblazing neuroscientists and the rest of us. His mind-opening and potentially life-changing insight is that virtually anyone can now learn enough about brain chemistry and circuitry to personally explore -- and perhaps even reshape -- the contours of his or her own mind.
John Horgan author of "The Undiscovered Mind" and "Rational Mysticism" My brain was tickled, fascinated, moved, surprised, and above all entertained by Steven Johnson's delightful tour through modern neuroscience.
""Mind Wide Open" is a lucid and engaging travelogue from the frontiers of human brain science."
-- Steven Pinker, author of "The Blank Slate" and "How the Mind Works"
"Celebrates the brain's complexity and wonder even as it demonstrates that you can get to know your mind better than you ever thought."
-- Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of "Interface Culture, Emergence, " and "Everything Bad Is Good for You" as well as a columnist for "Discover" and a contributing editor at "Wired." He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons, and can be reached via the Web at www.stevenberlinjohnson.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
Here in Dallas, there is a Farmer's Market near the downtown area where several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that same spirit, I offer a selection of brief passages representative of the high quality of Johnson's skills.
"Unlike so many technoscie3ntific advances, the brain sciences and their imaging technologies are, almost by definition, a kind of mirror. They capture what our brains are doing and reflect that information back to us. You gaze into the glass, and the reflection says to you, `Here is your brain.' This book is the story of my journey into that mirror." (Page 17)
"The attention system works as a kind of assembly line: higher-level functions are built on top of lower-level functions. So if you have problems encoding, you'll almost certainly have problems with supervisory attention. When people notice attention impairments, they're usually detecting problems with the focus/execute or supervisory levels, but the original source of the problem may well be farther down the chain, or it might be localized to a particular sensory channel.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Part of this is the the author's style. Johnson is funny, personal, and earnest. He alternates between sharing his own musings and vulnerablities and recounting what he has carefully learned and experienced. When you read this book, you may feel the astonishing sensations that I did; your mind thinking about your mind within the context of your own experience and Johnson's perspectives. This was a visceral experience for me.
As much as Mind Wide Open will stimulate you, it is also a book that begs to be read more than once. Rarely do I read a book that I want to completely re-read again; I suspect that many others will feel the same.
I must admit to having scant, if any, interest in 'brain science' before reading this book. That has changed. What lies in our head not only influences our thinking; it catalogues our evolution and our pursuit of life's meaning. Mind Wide Open is a book that allows the reader to understand him/herself in ways that we have never explored before.
This is a superb book. I highly enjoyed it, I look forward to enjoying it again, and I give it my highest recommendation.
There are so many incredible things to learn about neuroscience that are accessible to non-scientists, yet he focused most of the book on electroencephalograms (EEG), which is ancient technology and alone yields little information about the brain. He drew broad conclusions from specific data and consistently overinterpreted results. This is not surprising considering he has no degree. I should have noticed this before I bought the book. He's like the Ken Burns of neuroscience. You can't study neuroscience part-time for a year or two and expect to write a deep book on it. It's like trying to fly a space shuttle after a summer internship at NASA.
So in conclusion, if you know nothing about neuroscience, you'll probably get something out of this book. Don't waste your time on it though, because if you want to have your mind blown, read "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat".
Mind Wide Open is a great book if you're new to the field of psychology or simply aren't too familiar with the actual chemical workings of the brain. The detail in the main text isn't all that deep but the end notes make up for much of the "overlooked" information. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars because while it was informative and quite revealing I think that Johnson slightly oversimplified the issues at hand. If you come into this book with anything much above a beginners understanding of brain biochemistry you won't walk away with any new ideas.
I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a beginners guide to theories of how the brain functions.
I would recommend this book as an extremely breezy read for those curious about what's going on in brain science. Johnson describes how our brains are always on endogenous drugs, be they the love potion oxytocin, the stressor cortisol, the confidence-building serotonin, etc. He also recounts some pretty interesting experiments where his mind is connected to electrodes and fMRI machines and his mental processes monitored. I have to admit, though, I wanted something a little meatier and substantive about the human mind, and wasn't quite sure if the book was limited by the state of brain science or Johnson's attempt to simplify for the everyman. Most people are aware that the mind is a neurochemical network, so there isn't anything particularly revelatory here.
Johnson rarely gets abstract. He discusses the "qualia" of consciousness only to sidestep it. (I found myself wondering why the metaphysical qualia of consciousness is even necessary; the illusion of a unified "I" must have some evolutionary advantages over a machine-like processor.) At the end he tackles Freud, but I found his attempts somewhat simplistic against the godfather of psychoanalysis.
In sum, while an interesting read, the book stretches out a little bit of information a long way. A lot of this information could have been in one magazine article. And I did fear that Johnson was trying to dumb it down a bit; I wouldn't mind more intensive scrutiny of the actual neurochemical components of the mind.