Feb 02, 12
Read in February, 2012
A description of the functioning of the brain and how it differs from conventional wisdom. Eagleman treats a wide variety of topics, including psychologist Julian James belief that only about 3,000 years ago did humans evolve to become aware of "consciousness". Until then the left-brain/right-brain split led humans to believe that dreams and hallucinations were messages from gods.
It also covers the brain's functioning to cover up a massive blind spot in the eye; the damage done by keeping secrets; and competition among sectors of the brain. Near the end of the book, he argues strongly that the American penal system handles psychological aberrations poorly, choosing to warehouse those with anti-social behavior rather than treat it.
I found the book difficult to follow, wandering from topic to topic with little structure. Or should I say, "It was structured poorly for my brain." More readable authors on the topic are Oliver Sacks, Harold Klawans and Antonio Damasio.
The description of the brain abnormality that led to shootings at the University of Texas in chapter 6 is very good. Charles Whitman, who killed 13 and wounded 33 more people, knew that something was wrong and wrote about it in his diary, asking for an autopsy. The autopsy revealed a tumor pressing on his amygdala.