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Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,878 ratings  ·  154 reviews
We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is ...more
Hardcover, 359 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  1,878 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology, science
A connectome is the sum total of connections between neurons in a brain. Sebastian Seung argues in his book that one's connectome is the essence of an individual. A connectome contains one's memories and personality, and defines who we are. The idea is that at birth, one's neurons are connected with each another at random. As one grows, the brain's connectome changes through the "four R's": reweighting, reconnection, rewiring, and regeneration. These changes are the essence of growing new memori ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: consciousness
This book was quite a pleasant read, especially compared to some of the other books on brain science I read. Seung gives a very clear and well structured overview of his ideas: from the concepts and principles of the connectome paradigm (basically the idea that a complete map of neuron wiring would allow us to completely understand the brain) to the techniques for constructing such a brain model to some philosophical consequences.

The reason that I give a relatively low rating is that I found th
Paul M.
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been reading a lot of books on the brain and psychology, and compared to those, this one is more about the brain itself- its structure, its neurons, and, above all, its connections. The idea of a connectome- pronounced "connect-tome"- is that technology is reaching the point where we will be able to map out all the connections in the brain, which will help us understand thought, memory, mental disorders, and so on. The book includes historical background, an assessment of the present state ...more
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What makes us who we are? Think about that question for a moment...
...Among all of the questions we can ask as human beings, even with all of our progress and our potential, that question alone remains one of the most difficult, or perhaps the most difficult, to answer. Innumerable factors are involved when it comes to the inner workings of the mind and how it serves to shape our characters and our behavior. We are only just beginning to understand the unfathomable intricacies of the brain, thi
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, medicine

Sebastian Seung is one of a group of neuroscientists who want to literally unravel the brain's wiring diagram in hopes that it will be the ultimate tool to determine our individual differences and to solve such deep and thorny problems as autism, schizophrenia, depression and other mental disorders.

Seung is a good writer, particularly at explaining the basics of neuroscience and helping you understand the history of research that revealed the existence of neurons, the development of brain maps a
Keith Swenson
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Who are we? What are we? Dualists take the position that the mind is separate from the brain, while monists say they are the same thing. The connectome presents an intriguing third option: the mind is not the brain per se, but rather the way that the neurons are connected. Sebastian Seung presents this using everyday language, relating the effects to everyday occurrences and meaning. Your genes determine how your body grows from an egg to an adult. Your connectome is determined only partially by
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ideas
amazon review:
We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?
Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. He believes it lies in the pattern of connections bet
Steven Paglierani
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sebastian Sung is a brilliantly lucid writer. His analogies are clear; his ideas, interesting. Sadly his medical materialism taints the whole meal. According to Sung, there is no soul. Or anything else which can't be physically measured.

Most notably missing are any references to emergent properties. Nor does he refer to the idea that the knowable real world is based on naturally occurring fractal patterns, rather than on logically linear patterns. Worse yet, nowhere does he mention the idea that
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Very basic...
David “Skip” Everling
An accessible book to introduce and help explain the exciting theory that the mind is entirely encoded in the particular architecture of your brain. The central theme of "Connectome" is that such a mapping of the connections between neurons provides a far more complete picture of mental activity than other brain models. As Seung explains, mapping a brain's connectome would enable highly specific examination and treatment of a brain, going so far as to allow correlation of neuronal activity patte ...more
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very well-written book about a topic which, alas, I discovered just doesn't do very much for me. That said, if you're interested in a layman's description of how the brain works from the perspective of a neuroscientist rather than a psychologist, this is a great book.

Seung's thesis is that the brain is all about how it's wired, how it's connected. Two twins may have identical genomes, but differ from one another in skills and personality and other attributes because their differing env
Karel Baloun
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Seung is a talented story-teller, weaving in history of science and famous ancient philosophers for a timeless feel, and also sharing the thrill of scientific discoveries and experiments. Connectome, as a craft of non-fiction, is polished to perfection.

His thesis is that each human being is no more and no less than the sum of the connections between all neurons, and all of the details in how these systems operate. And that this connectome is constantly updating itself until death, using the 4 R’
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A connectome is a map of the connections of the neurons in the brain, Seung thinks that the variations within that framework is what makes us individuals. His descriptions of the brain and how it has been explored are very clear. I learned about axions and dendrites. synapsis and "gray matter" in the brain. He describes the brain like a very dense root system that is hard to decipher due to the complex way information is stored and exchanged across the brain. He says "you are your connectome. Th ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
"[...] you might act like a victim of brain damage. Neurologists know that such victims deny their problems. Amnesics, for example, sometimes accuse others of deceiving them when they have memory lapses. Stroke victims don't always acknowledge paralysis, and may contrive fantastic explanations as to why they cannot perform certain tasks."

"[...] since language itself is but a metaphoric expression of human experience."

"Perhaps we can resist "the devil" by restructuring our economic incentives, re
Masagos Hamzah
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Apt and succinct writing for such a profound and vast topic. Contains great and amusing references to philosophy and history combining science with art. A technical but otherwise informative book on the brain and its connections put in a simple manner for readers with basic biological knowledge to understand. Posits a great number of questions (More than answers) regarding the complex enigmatic mind.

Opens up the eye to the possibility of a future revolving around our connectome, Our self.

A thou
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it
A cute little book in which Mr. Seung makes some bold claims wrapped up in a very accessible package. His insights come with a wealth of examples and explanations like the weighted voting system of neurons which is an approximation of the way neurons function to determine our actions.
All in all a very enjoyable book, which delves deep into the theoretical hypotheses under scrutiny at the moment in neuroscience, albeit in a very pleasant style.
Michael Durbin
Sep 21, 2013 rated it did not like it

Started great -- like one of the best science books for a general audience I'd ever read. Then it got tedious and even annoying, as when the author urged me to memorize a set of terms (frontal, temporal, occipital...) because he'd be using them a lot. Then he hardly did. I think the author forgot his audience, got a little sloppy, and maybe thinks just a bit too highly of his idea. Which I think is brilliant, by the way. I just didn't need the last 89% or so of this book.
Luiño Seoane
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
Unluckily, the science of connectomics is still in its very beginnings so that the book cannot move much beyond speculation. There is a nice compendium of cutting-edge techniques in neuroscience and the book is very well written, which makes you wish for more. I personally was expecting astounding scientific breakthroughs, but soon realized that it is not the moment quite yet. I'd be very glad if the author would revisit the topic 10 or 15 years from now.
Cassandra Kay Silva
Feb 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
I liked the writing in and of itself fairly well, the the premise the author was trying to sell did not quite come off. It's not even that in part I don't agree with him, its more that it should have been better developed and better researched to sway the audience. I just didn't feel that firing spark of joyful discovery that I had hoped to come across with this.
Nancy Stringer
Jun 02, 2012 rated it liked it
According to Sebastian Seung, the self is a non-material entity. The 21st-century soul, however, is not some strange ghost in the machine. It's information. You are, in effect, a piece of software running on the wetware in your skull.
Sergiy Kuzmenko
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
The best thing I likes about this book is Sebastian Seung's reflections of philosophy and religion.
Monica Willyard Moen
This book offers a concept, and understanding of how the brain works, that is intriguing to me. The author posits that the connections made within the synapses of brain regions create our personality, hold our memories, and help us process information in an effortless way. He shows how different regions of the brain can be connected in unique ways so that for example a blind persons visual cortex lights up with activity if that person reads braille with his or her fingers. He theorizes that diso ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
In many ways this is a great introduction to neuroscience for the layperson.

Although I do think it does lean more towards the "science" part of "popular science". In other words, if you're looking for an easy beach read, this is probably not it.

I personally learned a lot about what we know about the brain and also the current prospects to increase our knowledge.

The biggest high level take aways:

(1) There are enormous obstacles on the path to obtaining an entire human connectome. At the very mini
Michael Dubakov
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology, ai
Good book with nice historic perspective and brain anatomy. Last 3-4 chapters are less thorough, but it is understandable, since there are more fictional and have less scientific ground.

Connectome and the general idea is that everything is in connections/weights is a feasible concept, so it was interesting to read about progress in this area. Unfortunately, with current technologies it all looks close to impossible.

Some quotes:

"The function of a neuron is defined chiefly by its connections with
Shiv Sondhi
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Its a great book from start to finish. Although I did not completely agree with a lot of the author's views towards the end, it really is great thinking and a fairly believable assessment of the future course of society.

The book is split into 5 parts each dealing with different topics that converge to elucidate the working of arguably, the most important part of the human body, the brain. The author gives an openly biased view on most matters, solving; and suggesting solutions for, various probl
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The science in this book was fascinating, well-explained, and relevant to my life aka my new job doing neuroscience research. Everything that wasn't science, but instead was hooks or analogies or speculation intended to appeal to the common man, I hated witha passion. Basically, I started every chapter groaning out loud and sending snapchats of terrible metaphors or rhapsodies about sperm to my friends, and then settled in to read the rest of the fascinating chapter that actually talked about ne ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Embarrassing: I thought this was 'Connect (To) Me, therefore a book about how social media impacts people. When I got it from the library I realized it was about determining the way our brains work and how it makes us, well- us.
Given how different it was from what I expected, I am stunned at how much i liked this book. And also how approachable Seung makes the content for this decidedly non-scientific reader.
What made it even more fascinating was a random viewing of the new Keanu Reeves movie Re
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Starts basic and doesn't probe too deeply into any one topic, but for a survey, I found it outstanding. The chapters build logically onto one another, from the first introduction of the idea of the connectome to the most ambitious, controversial extrapolations of the idea of the connectome (or more generally some set of information about the configuration of the brain) giving rise to the self. It's true that, in 2018, some sections are already out-of-date, but the most important ideas he present ...more
Gareth Williams
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Well written. My enjoyment suffered due to bookending with the more illuminating (in some ways mind blowing) “Probably Approximately Correct” (Valiant) and “the book of why” (Pearl). Early chapters are too much a recap of a couple decades of popular science articles and books.

The key here is the phrase coined is “it’s neurons all the way down” ( I think a fair summary would be that the book contends that it’s neurons all the way _up_. Brain regions seem
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Slightly dated now (hoping for an updated version), this is an accessible book on the current state of brain & behavior research. It is full of great stories and history, wonderful analogies, and philosophy. Seung provides a nice mix of theory and accepted science to explain neural plasticity, memory, transhumanism, and more. I've used it in a mixed majors/nonmajors undergraduate behavioral neuroscience class since roughly 2013. Highly recommended for non-experts who enjoy reading pop science bo ...more
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Brain Science Pod...: BSP 85: Sebastian Seung Interview 17 68 Feb 08, 2015 01:53PM  
The Brain and Mind: Connectomics 1 22 May 12, 2012 04:43AM  
Brain Science Pod...: #brainbrawl 3 11 Apr 06, 2012 07:49AM  

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