Brains - How They Seem to Work
“Dale Purves’ Brains is my favorite sort of reading--an engaging and intelligent scientific autobiography full of vivid personal and historical accounts; the story not only of a life but of an intellectual pursuit. Purves has a unique voice, lively, outspoken, and very human--and his love of science comes through on every page.” --Oliver Sacks
“Brains is an engaging tour of human neuroscience from one of its most distinguished and opinionated practitioners. Dale Purves is a lively and informative guide to the field, having been at the scene of some of its great discoveries and having made many important discoveries himself.” --Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of The Stuff of Thought
“A rare account of both the modern history of key discoveries in brain research by someone who was there and responsible for many of them and also a heartfelt account of the joy of it all. Dale Purves has given us an inside view of a life in science and explains with clarity what it all means.” --Michael S. Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara,
author of Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique
“Brains is a delightful book that weaves together Dale Purves’ personal neuroscience history with the history and current status of the field. I enjoyed it start to finish.” --Joseph LeDoux, New York University, author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self
“This book is many things. It’s the memoir of an immensely likeable human (who I only previously knew as a distant giant in my field). It’s people with strong personalities that give lie to the notion that science is an affectless process. But most of all, it is a clear, accessible, affectionate biography of neuroscience. This is a terrific book.” --Robert M. Sapolsky, Stanford University, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers
“Both highly entertaining and educational. A masterpiece.” --Bert Sakmann, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
For 50 years, the world’s most brilliant neuroscientists have struggled to understand how human brains really work. Today, says Dale Purves, the dominant research agenda may have taken us as far as it can--and neuroscientists may be approaching a paradigm shift.
In this highly personal book, Purves reveals how we got to this point and offers his notion of where neuroscience may be headed next. Purves guides you through a half-century of the most influential ideas in neuroscience and introduces the extraordinary scientists and physicians who created and tested them.
Purves offers a critical assessment of the paths that neuroscience research has taken, their successes and their limitations, and then introduces an alternative approach for thinking about brains. Building on new research on visual perception, he shows why common ideas about brain networks can’t be right and uncovers the factors that determine our subjective experience. The resulting insights offer a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
Why we need a better conception of what brains are trying to do and how they do it
Approaches to understanding the brain over the past several decades may be at an impasse
The surprising lessons that can be learned from what we see
How complex neural processes owe more to trial-and-error experience than to logical principles
Brains--and the people who think about them
Meet some of the extraordinary individuals who’ve shaped neuroscience
The “ghost in the machine” problem
The ideas presented further undermine the concept of free will