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The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  350 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Consciousness is our gateway to experience: it enables us to recognize Van Gogh’s starry skies, be enraptured by Beethoven’s Fifth, and stand in awe of a snowcapped mountain. Yet consciousness is subjective, personal, and famously difficult to examine: philosophers have for centuries declared this mental entity so mysterious as to be impenetrable to science. In The Ravenou ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Basic Books
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  350 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The title "The Ravenous Brain" refers to the human's insatiable appetite for finding structure in information. Daniel Bor is a neuroscientist, and his contention is that
the main purpose of consciousness is to search for and discover those structured chunks of information within working memory, so that they can then be used efficiently and automatically, with minimal further input from concsciousness.
In other words, the purpose of consciousness is to find structures, so that in the future the information can
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, nook-book
Our conscious is such an interesting topic. There are a lot of books that tell us to use our subconscious to better ourselves. I am always grateful for “The Power of the Subconscious Mind” by Dr. Joseph Murphy for helping me see life for the better. This book gives scientific proof that that Dr. Murphy’s techniques work, even though that is not its point.

The brain has four lobes which provide different services for us.

1. The Frontal lobe is obviously at the front of the head. It is the area re
Tom Quinn
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Evidently any neuroscience, cognitive science, or brain anatomy book is required by law to talk about Phineas Gage.

5 stars - a really good, condensed summary of key theories of consciousness from then to now and a very well-documented argument in favor of materialism, using contemporary findings to argue that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain's physical structure.
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it
This book came highly recommended by a Goodreads friend, and the first 50 pages or so are right on point with the kinds of questions that I have about consciousness, what it is, and whether the brain is a sufficient or only a necessary cause of it. Bor is a very clear writer and is quite frank about his own view that the brain can completely account for all aspects of consciousness. He tries to dismiss the philosophers with whom I tend to agree (Thomas Nagel in "What is it like to be a Bat?" and ...more
Jana Light
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I loved this book about the brain and how we can think about consciousness as capacity for creative, innovative thought. Rich content, engaging stories, and a very practical thesis. I was struck by his endorsement of meditation in the last 10 pages -- the more I learn about meditation, the more I realize how beneficial a practice is it for our brains and well-being. I was a little underwhelmed by Bor's attempt to explain mental health issues and autism in terms of healthy/unhealthy attention or ...more
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing I spend many, many hours pondering is the wonder of consciousness. There's matter, and there's energy, and somehow it becomes aware of itself. Not only that, but up there in the goo there's no one giant cell - there's only a confederation of neurons that communicate a lot. So consciousness, if we accept it exists, must constantly dance among neurons. So is our persistent consciousness an energy?

Bor makes a compelling case that whatever consciousness is, it is limited to the
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013, mind, kindle
Bor's theory of consciousness says that consciousness emerged to guide our mind's attention and working memory, to help with storing, recalling and processing the patterns we perceive in the world around us. Chunking - the grouping of information into more memorable segments - is at the heart of man's advantage over animals. It allows us to increase the limits of our working memory and therefore process and analyse more complex patterns.

Bor explains his theory by starting from zero,
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is an interesting argument made by Mr. Bor on the side of the mechanistic view of conciousness and of the brain as a computational machine.
The lasting information I got out of this book, however, was not of the theoretical models of conciousness but of the applications of technology to determine a person's state of conciousness and awareness.
I found it a well structured book with many examples which explained well the concepts underlying his argument.
Teo 2050
~5.5h @ 2x. Contents:
(view spoiler) ...more
Akhil Munjal
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book truly represents the leading theories of consciousness and is full of ideas that are based on the the state of the art research. I had been reading quite a few books on the topic of consciousness but all I used to understand from them was that this topic is mysterious in some mystical way. For example in a book by Deepak Chopra, he alludes to the fact that consciousness uses quantum phenomenon and hence it will only be understood when we understand dark energy and dark matter. However ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In this book, ravenous means insatiable appetite to find structure in everything we experience. Fascinating topic in an easy to follow description for a layman like myself. I think I will re-read it at some point though to bet an even better understanding.
(For a long while I didn't understand what these toes are doing on the cover though)
Kelsey Breseman
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-read-again
Pragmatic and to-the-point. A bit more direct metaphor to the brain as an information processor than I was comfortable with (having just read but otherwise a consistently interesting and thoughtful read
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
The meaning of consciousness is no longer completely inaccessible to me after reading this book. It's starting to make sense to me. The author does an excellent job of reviewing what is only recently becoming known about the field. He explains difficult concepts wonderfully and uses some of the best analogies I've heard.

The author looks at the relevant philosophy, evolution psychology and the recent neuroscience understandings to go a long way with explaining what is consciousness. H
Lake Lady
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I have to say I was quite disappointed in this book. The first half read as if the editor said, "your book isn't long enough I need more". So while there's some interesting brain science and biology in there it really didn't add much at all to the discussion of consciousness. In fact one of my major complaints with this book is that it's not until somewhere in the middle that the author even tackles the sticky question of how to define consciousness at all. I had hoped to learn much more from th ...more
Ronan O'Driscoll
Prefrontal Parietal Cortex. That's where consciousness is. Or at least the core part of awareness. Bor grounds his discussion of consciousness in the science of awareness and evolutionary science. He also offers some fascinating explanations for a host of brain disorders: ADHD (often due to a lack of sleep - which explains why it is eased by a stimulant like Ritulan), depression and schizophrenia. He also describes Autism as an *excess* of awareness which is one of the better definitions I have ...more
I especially find the first and the last two chapters interesting. The last two chapters are relevant regarding the treatment of mental conditions like autism, schizophrenia, ADHD and mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder). Bor reports on new approaches to treatment, including fresh views of underlying chemical causes of schizophrenia and on why meditation practices improve the level of consciousness in brain parts that in turn lessen amygdala activity, which is associated with (irrati ...more
Arash Farzaneh
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, informative and interesting read! Although I generally avoid scientific books on the brain (I find them rather intimidating to downright confusing), this one is worth your time as it explains complex processes in imaginative ways. I learned quite a lot in the whole process and was quite impressed and pleased with the style and subject matter.
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
At times dense and unforgiving, but a valiant effort to haul the study of consciousness out of the realm of myth and conjecture. The book stands as a celebration of frontal lobe prowess and the beauty of our powerful pattern finding minds. You will definitely find something in this book that will spark a conversation that goes well into the night with friends.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-2012
loved it. Great discussion of consciousness, a little mind bending, and fun to read an actual researcher's thoughts on it (as opposed to a science journalist) (but still accessible, readable)
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
It is a strange voyage which one embark reading this book. It is a travel over the deep black sea of cosciousness, with your captain, Daniel Bor, trying to find the Big Conscious Whale using as harpoon the instruments of science. But this courageous captain is not a science of formation, he comes from the island of philosophers and so sometimes you think that he is not able to find the Big Whale because he does not really know how to use science. Especially if one compares this book to "are we s ...more
Alice Abernathy
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Slow reading because full of scientific analysis, but worth the effort. The scientific reasoning is sometimes interrupted by the author's analysis of his baby daughter's behavior--charming.
Lee Dale
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed reading this. Gives an in depth scientific overview of the nature of consciousness, how its relates to people with damaged brains and mental illness. Definitely worth a read.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I definitely gained a clearer concept of consciousness grounded in neuroscience and Bor's supporting data is pretty exhaustive. That being said, the sentences were often long winded.
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Defining consciousness is the problem with this book and not because of any shortcomings of the author. This is a complicated area of science that is difficult to define and understand even for those who are scientifically inclined. Because much remains to be proven about the nature of consciousness it is difficult to focus for long on just scientific descriptions of those who try to explain it to a layperson especially when it is obvious that not even scientists working in the field agree on wh ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Despite not being quite what I expected I enjoyed this book. It is written in a cogent and concise style that lends itself well to the audiobook format. The central motif concerns the evolution of information processing and how human consciousness is a unique emergent property of information processing, attention, inferencing and cognition. I appreciated the authors syncretic use of source material; drawing on a diverse set of disciplines including neuroscience, physiology, anthropology and even ...more
Ellis Amdur
Jan 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Bor's thesis focuses on the evolution of the brain as an organism that processes information, picking and choosing those aspects and "chunking" them into larger complexes of information/behavior. Among the most valuable aspects of the book is a novel view of mental illness, that due to anomalies in the brain, either due to genetics or stress, one's ability to process information is radically impaired. What we regard as mental illness may be an artifact of an individual trying to make sense of th ...more
Mar 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
I'm fascinated by the debate over where consciousness resides: am "I" something external and independent of the physical vessel I reside in, or instead just the product of neural activity?

Advances in science and medicine seem to be moving that debate out of the purely philosophical realm and into the concrete world of measurement and quantitativeness (if that's a word, which spell-check says is not), so I was looking forward to reading up on the latest findings. However, after two weeks I've on

Nelson Zagalo
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Albeit having read different books on the subject of Consciousness in this one we can really feel that we're very near the complete definition of what it means. This is an easy read for a complex subject, one that will enlighten your understanding about who you are, and why you are.

"the main purpose of consciousness is to search for and discover those structured chunks of information within working memory, so that they can then be used efficiently and automatically, with minimal furt
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this. Started out with strong philosophical basics regarding consciousness and lead in to the scientific underpinnings of today's argument for a fairly pure materialistic definition of consciousness. I may take a deeper dive in to the neuroscience, as well as pull to the top of my reading list some counter arguments laid out recently - Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False
Sep 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't finish this book. The subject interests me but the construction of the book was frustrating. The early parts summarized, more or less chronologically, the prevailing theories of conscious thought in humans. I think it would have been more interesting if the author had fast-forwarded to current research and ideas on the subject. I am sure he got there, but I lost momentum and gave up.
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