Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

This book is a cutie. Small, easy to read and with pithy statements such as ‘your brain was not made for thinking.’ It packs ideas worth exploring further, palatable for non-readers as well. I read it in a couple of hours.

The book explains evolutionary threads that connect us to other species, looks at the ways and whys of how the brain evolved and tackles the nature versus nature debate with logic and a lightness of touch.

It puts to rest various myths in a few short paras such as that of the triune brain if you’ve ever heard yourself expounding on the idea of the reptilian brain warring with the more evolved, rational part in decision-making, that whole view has been largely debunked. 

Barrett leans heavily on the concept of body budgeting where everything you do either contributes to or diminishes your well-being. This may range from what you eat and how you like your job to whether the people around you are regulating your emotional health or causing stress and so on. It has surprising tidbits like apparently, if you’re exposed to social stress within two hours of a meal, your body treats the food as if it as 104 extra calories. These details don’t get more explanation so one has to rely on one’s own understanding or further research to draw value from this information. Still, it’s a good start if you’re interested in books about the brain and how and why we are the way we are. 

For more in-depth reads, here are some recommendations – Livewired by David Eagleman and Elastic by Leonard Mlodinow about neuroplasticity, The Performance Cortex by Zach Schonbrun about athletic minds and an easy one called My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor which is a personal account of the division of our sense of self between the left and right hemispheres.

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