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The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science) Paperback – 28 Feb 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (28 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141007206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141007205
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

What's going on in there? One of the great scientific and philosophical mysteries is how a few pounds of wet, salty cobwebs can give rise to the rich experience that we call consciousness. Oxford neuroscientist Susan Greenfield peers inside the dimly lit skull to show us what she thinks is going on in The Private Life of the Brain. Greenfield has a great facility for explaining tricky scientific concepts in language that is engaging to all readers. She presents the basics of contemporary thought on consciousness as they relate to her own theory involving a continuum of experience between sensual, emotional grounding in the surrounding world and rational, cognitive withdrawal into mental life. Arguing from a wide range of animal and human research, as well as the work of philosophers such as John Searle and Daniel Dennett, she makes her case compellingly but gently, allowing that other theories might also hold in this still-uncharted territory. Looking in depth at depression, drug use, and fear, Greenfield shows how each is explained by her continuum theory and how each relates to the life of the human organism as a whole. Could it be true that as our minds work harder, our hearts lose some feeling, and vice versa? Whether or not the idea withstands time and testing, it is intriguing and thought-provoking, making The Private Life of the Brain essential reading for minds seeking self-enlightenment. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

How do our unique personalities emerge from our anatomically identical physical brains? What gives rise to our emotions? Why do some drugs make us ecstatic while others make us miserable? For centuries, the most elusive and tantalizing questions about how the human mind works were left to the esoteric realm of philosophers. But in the last decade, there has finally been an explosion of interest from those who study the physical brain. In this groundbreaking scientific exploration, internationally acclaimed neuroscientist and author Susan Greenfield demystifies the private life of the brain. Embarking on an excursion deep inside the human brain, Greenfield takes us beyond the intricate tangle of cells, electrical impulses, and molecules to examine the physical basis of our emotions and search for the answer to one of the most enduring mysteries in modern science: How is a unique, subjective experience generated in each one of us? Informed by years of cutting–edge research, as well as compelling personal anecdotes that we can all relate to, Greenfield reveals that emotions, triggered by individual life experiences, are the very foundation upon which our brains build our unique minds. Offering us a brain scientist’s perspective on the intricate dance of emotions and cognitive abilities, Greenfield asserts that this extraordinary sense of the self is inextricably bound to the often mercurial world of emotions. Rich in insights from such diverse realms as neuroscience, pharmacology, psychology, philosophy, and everyday life, The Private Life of the Brain traces the life of our mind and reveals how our childhood experiences; intense emotions like fear, depression, and euphoria; and the drugs that induce these extreme feelings dramatically affect who we are. She argues that emotions exist at the core of our selves to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how much we are using or losing our mind at any given moment. Timely and provocative, The Private Life of the Brain is a tour de force that provides an eye–opening look through the authoritative lens of neuroscience. Captivating for novices and experts alike, this intriguing book presents an enlightening journey into the human brain for anyone who has ever pondered the mystery of who we are and how the brain works. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Greenfield's book is accessible to the general reader with an interest in the field. She herself is a neuropharmacologist, but approaches this book with an open mind. her multidisciplinary approach makes for compulsive reading.
She is tackling an area that is undoubtedly an intellectual landmine. She does it with humour, and delivers an argument both persuasive and personal, both touching and scientific.
You may not agree with every point she makes, but you will definitely be glad that you gave her the chance.
One of the many things that i enjoyed about this book is the fact that it is not huge. Many books within the realm of popular science are far too dense. It is a relatively slim volume that gets striaght to the point. There is an appendix and a detailed set of end notes for those that are interested.
Fans of Antonio Damasio's The Feeling Of What Happens should enjoy this book.
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Susan Greenfield takes us on a wondrous journey of the brain and the chemical processes that produce thoughts and emotions. By making it relevant to our own experiences of others and ourselves she provides an understanding of how the workings of our brains make us who we are. I particularly liked the way Dr. Greenfield uses her own personal experiences to bring alive some of the beautifully written explanations.
She has connected the science of the brain and mind to the behaviour of ourselves in a way that is accessible and understandable to the non-neuroscientist (I don't even have biology GCSE). As an engineer who thinks in pictures I would have benefited from some diagrams to help me understand the structure of the brain and particularly the different fountains of modulating amines.
The excellent "notes" for each chapter gave both further qualification of the narrative and good sources of further reading. I intend to obtain at least 4 further texts on the basis of these.
I identified with her struggle as a woman in scientific research and the limiting caution of research funding bodies, both of which she underplays hugely.
A thoroughly fascinating book. If you are interested in people and science, read this book.
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I've read several books on brain science, so not a complete newcomer. However, I'm not a neuroscientist, either, and this book drew the perfect line between the two, thoroughly explaining the experiments which have led to discoveries about consciousness and what happens in an individual's brain. What's more, the concept of self is explored. I think this would be a good place to begin one's studies of the brain.
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Format: Paperback
As a Neuroscience Student, I read this book as part of my course, but having read other books by Susan Greenfield, there is nothing new here. The first few chapters are interesting for people new to the subject, but much of the content can be found in other books by Greenfield - The Human Brain:A Guided Tour and Brain Story. If you already have these titles, then I wouldn't bother buying this book. There are much better titles around.
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Format: Hardcover
Don't be put off by the subject matter; this book is extremely readable, even to non-experts. Prof Greenfield clearly illustrates some basics of neuroscience (with the use of amusing metaphors), before setting out her own theories of conciousness (which are controversial but interesting). Even to those who have some knowlegdge of the field, this book provides a lively overview, and looks at some ideas from new angles.
What spoils the book is its tendancy towards repetition, which quicky becomes wearing when one reads more than a few chapters at one sitting (for example, I'm sure many other readers will tire of the author's apparent obsession with her mortgage). A bit of editing wouldn't go amiss before the release of the paperback.
Recommended, despite its flaws.
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My biggest gripe about this book is Greenfield's frequent tendency to use huge run-on sentences. It's almost tiresome to read. I felt drained at the end of nearly every sentence. So I had to deduct a star for that reason.

The second star was reduced because the footnotes are in the back of the book! This always annoys me. When I read a book I like to relax, not flip through the book everytime I stumble across a notation.
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Excellent book, if a bit dated now. Spoilt by bad proof reading, I had to correct the grammar or put in small missing pronouns to make sense of things more often than I should have!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is simply a great read. The subject is fascinating and Susan Greenfield knows how to engage the reader. In my opinion she is up there with the best of popular science writers
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