I can see why so many find this book useful and inspiring. I did enjoy the vivid description of the author's state of mind through her experience of aI can see why so many find this book useful and inspiring. I did enjoy the vivid description of the author's state of mind through her experience of a massive stroke and the long journey to recovery. However, I must give the book one star for the dumbing down and misrepresenting facts about the brain and for the new-agey drivel toward the end.
Here are just a couple of paragraphs showing how loose the author is with facts:
The superficial layers of the cortex, which we see when we look at the external surface of the brain, are filled with neurons that we believe to be uniquely human. These most recently “added on” neurons create circuits that manufacture our ability to think linearly–as in complex language and the ability to think in abstract, symbolic systems like mathematics. The deeper layers of the cerebral cortex make up the cells of the limbic system. These are the cortical cells we share with other mammals. The limbic system functions by placing an affect, or emotion, on information streaming in through our senses. Because we share these structures with other creatures, the limbic system cells are often referred to as the “reptilian brain” or the “emotional brain.” When we are newborns, these cells become wired together in response to sensory stimulation. It is interesting to note that although our limbic system functions throughout our lifetime, it does not mature. As a result, when our emotional “buttons” are pushed, we retain the ability to react to incoming stimulation as though we were a two year old, even when we are adults. (pp. 17-18). Kindle Edition.
Every sentence here was nonsense. Uniquely human neurons in the superficial layers? Really? What kind of neurons? What does it mean? Is sensorimotor cortex uniquely human or just its superficial layers? We only share the limbic system with other mammals but not the rest of the cortex? The limbic system never matures? What does that mean? Reptilian or "emotional" brain? Is the author referring to the long-rejected triune brain hypothesis?
Our visual field, the entire view of what we can see when we look out into the world, is divided into billions of tiny spots or pixels. Each pixel is filled with atoms and molecules that are in vibration. The retinal cells in the back of our eyes detect the movement of those atomic particles. Atoms vibrating at different frequencies emit different wavelengths of energy, and this information is eventually coded as different colors by the visual cortex in the occipital region of our brain. (pp. 20-21). Kindle Edition.
What billions of tiny spots with molecules vibrating at different frequencies? Definitely not the most accurate description of optics or of phototransduction....more
I enjoyed reading this book immensely, although it does need to be taken with a sense of humor in places.
Santiago Ramon y Cajal instructed his followeI enjoyed reading this book immensely, although it does need to be taken with a sense of humor in places.
Santiago Ramon y Cajal instructed his followers to build character in order to become fully dedicated to the task of collecting detailed data about nature and fully immersed in a narrow niche that one is studying. He cautioned against getting caught up in useless distractions: excessive theorizing, authority worship, gossip, or relationship troubles.
The following quote sums up a great deal of the value system that Dr. Cajal prescribed to young scientists:
...a scholar's positive contribution is measured by the sum of the original data that he contributes. Hypotheses come and go but data remain. Theories desert us, while data defend us. They are our true resources, our real estate, and our best pedigree. In the eternal shifting of things, only they will save us from the ravages of time and from the forgetfulness or injustice of men. (Kindle Locations 934-936).
Of course, the chapter on marriage and relationship advice is hilarious:
For the man of science, the aid of a wife is just as necessary in youth as in old age. A woman at one's side may be likened to a knapsack in battle: without the accessory one fights unencumbered, but after the battle, then what? (Kindle Locations 1078-1079)