David Eaglemans book ''Incognito'' is more than just a good place to start (as we venture further into the frontiers of brain-land). It is a stunning exploration of the mind, and all the wondrous stuff that goes on inside our heads.
Eaglemans tour de force starts with Vision (About one third of he human brain is devoted to vision). Where human vision is nothing like a camera just taking a picture. Take the blind spot (a sizable patch in the retina with no photoreceptors). The brain invents a patch of the background pattern for us to ''see''. With no information from the spot - the spot is filled with the patterns around it! Talk about reality being not very real....
As the book goes on, it justs get weirder and weirder. Our thoughts are also ''constructions''... What we find delicious, tasty etc. is hardwired by evolution. I.e. most humans are hardwired to be attracted to other humans, not frogs? Actually, our entire mental landscape - ethics, emotions, beauty, social interaction etc. - is hardwired through evolution! We can only see our own umwelt, true reality out there - the umgebung - is beyond us.
Many interesting brain effects are described in the book. The McGurk Effect is a beautiful (and stunning) demonstration that what we see and hear is actually a brain construction. A nice piece of brain editing, where sound and vision are coordinated in an early processing stage outside conscious control. Vision dominates hearing, so hearing is adjusted to the visual cue, even though it is completely wrong. Stunning.
Eagleman also has some really good points that the brain is not a magic system (just in case you believed that ....), but an actual physical system. A pill called fluoxetine might chase away depression. Schizophrenic symptoms can sometimes be controlled by risperidone. Mania can treated by lithium.
But understanding the brain is certainly not easy. Eagleman mentions his colleague Read Montague. Who has speculated that we might have built in algorithms that protect us from ourselves. In much the same way as computers have boot sectors, which are inaccessible while running normally.
Whatever the truth, Eagleman concludes his wonderful book by stating that we don't have the ''understanding the brain''-problem cornered yet.
Well, probably not, but he certainly has provided us with a lot of useful insights! What a briliant book!