Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's” as Want to Read:
We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  4,113 ratings  ·  313 reviews
A vivid account of what makes us human.
Based groundbreaking new research, We Are Our Brains is a sweeping biography of the human brain, from infancy to adulthood to old age. Renowned neuroscientist D. F. Swaab takes us on a guided tour of the intricate inner workings that determine our potential, our limitations, and our desires, with each chapter serving as an eye-openi
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2010)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about We Are Our Brains, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about We Are Our Brains

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,113 ratings  ·  313 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's
Richard Newton
Rather than really being a 3 star book, this is one of those annoying hybrids: at times a good 4 star read, at others a rather poorly edited 2 star book. If you are interested in the state of brain research and brain theory a worthwhile read for the information, but one I found at times quite irritating.

Swaab's claim that we are our brains does not sound like anything particularly controversial when you start - it would be the same claim of many modern thinkers and scientists. Where Swaab diffe
Mar 19, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t particularly argue with the premise of this, but the constant emphasis on how everything is pre-determined for us before we’re even born… I prefer to live my life as if I have free choices, as if I’m a unique person formed by all sorts of circumstances over time, not just by stress chemicals my mother released while I was gestating. As if I’m responsible for, if not what I am, then what I do with what I am. Swaab’s research removes even that responsibility, if you follow it logically: if ...more
Scarlett Sims
Brain science is a fascinating topic, and as I started reading this book I was thinking it would be a four-star. The first few chapters read like a slightly more technical Oliver Sacks, where the author describes various strange brain conditions. Swaab's worldview is materialist/reductionist, which becomes increasingly obvious as the book moves forward. The chapter on sexual orientation was particularly interesting; I liked learning about how much and what parts of the brain develop still in the ...more
Jenny Boyce
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it

My overall impression of this book was that I truly enjoyed it, yet when I pick things apart I discover that this book isn’t as great as I thought it was.

There are many fantastic facts presented in this book. I found myself constantly highlighting information that I wanted to remember at a later date. I also found myself sharing the facts I had highlighted with my family and friends (much to their annoyance as there were a lot of facts to share).

Yet althou
H.A. Leuschel
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating and insightful look at our brains! I thoroughly enjoyed the panoply of facts and interesting research findings that the author describes then puts into a series of contexts (parental behaviour, education and crime to name just a few). If you are interested in finding out what the brain is used for, how it develops into a fully formed organ and what happens when it goes wrong, you'll enjoy this well-written and very entertaining book!
Gigi Tous
May 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gigi by: Goodreads's giveaways
Shelves: easy-techs
A book for those who like to understand medicine but are not doctors.

This was an easy read of many technical, medical issues that plague our body, through the brain. All the chapters all sorted and the author has a way with words. The technical parts are explained without boring details.
The author has full command of his writing. This book is written in a very approachable manner, which makes it easy for anyone to read regardless of prior knowledge of any medical school, even less neurolog
Steffi De la montagne
A great book if you're looking for some basic info on a lot of things that are going on in your brain. I would've liked more background info. Also he tends to repeat a lot of example and that gets kind of annoying. Great book for the average reader, but if you're looking for more depth and science this isn't the book for you.
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: neuroscience
We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer’s by D.F. Swaab

"We Are Our Brains" is a fantastic biography of the human brain. Dutch physician and neuroscientist D.F. Swaab takes the readers on a tour of the brain’s design and functionality. With a great grasp of this captivating topic and direct frankness the author proceeds to cover a wide spectrum of interesting topics pertaining to the brain. This fascinating 448-page book includes the following twenty-one chapt
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A book about brains sounded like an interesting idea in the shops. It is always good to educate ourselves a bit more about things happening inside us (outside us, too, but that has less to do with this particular book) and why exactly all that happens. And this was a good book for that.

It explained a lot of how our sexuality is formed, how at birth a lot of us is already defined and some issues are already present, even if we only recognize them later. And how our brain ages, and what that actu
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
This book on the brain covers its development from womb to tomb and explains almost everything that can go wrong. The fact that mental dysfunction can cause bizarre and sometimes tragic behavior is unsettling especially the fact that any one of us could succumb to one or more of the many ways brain function can go wrong. In addition brain science according to the author doesn't give us much hope beyond the grave. The author delivers the bad news in a fascinating way that elucidates how this marv ...more
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great a fascinating read on the most important part of you - the brain. Everything you do is based on your brain's biology. Perception, understanding, response, emotion is all up to your noodle. The structures, the chemicals, and their damaged working are reviewed to provide a good understanding of what the brain does, how it does it, how the environment is perceived, and how we respond and are conditioned to response. Cultural/religious subjects are touched on, but sparingly. For ...more
Konstantin Okonechnikov
The book describes in detail the brain activity from the development of organism in the womb to the death and presents multiple research results confirming that the personality is already programmed before the birth. Additionally multiple errors or problematic issues leading to brain diseases and disorders (Alzheimer, etc.) are explained in detail, amazing real examples are provided. Very useful overview of present knowledge about the functionality of the brain.
Atefeh Eghbali
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mustafa Refaee
Every chapter is differently edited. Some of them are reallybgood and fun to read and some are just poorly written and edited
Chris Torretta
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a seriously intense but magnificent read! There's so much in here but honestly most of it is pretty easy to understand. There were some terms that I had to look up (yay for reading this on my Kindle!) but other than that it was relatively easy.

“Take the myth that we use only 10 percent of our brains. You might well be forgiven for thinking this in the case of certain people, but I haven’t the faintest idea what prompted this crazy theory”

This is also one of the longest books I've read
Nanette Tredoux
A fascinating book, written by an important neuroscientist. The book is reasonably accessible for those with some background and an interest in psychology and neuroscience. A thought-provoking read, with the emphasis on the provocative.
The style is peculiar, and I wonder if the work was originally planned as a book, or whether it was assembled post-hoc from existing articles and presentations. Some case studies and opinions are mentioned several times throughout the book. There would be nothing
Andrew Langridge
Jan 25, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a useful collection of scientific information, but as with most neuroscience when stepping out of the realm of pure science, betrays enormous conceptual confusion. Take the title as an illustration: "You are your brain". This is a statement that is supposed to tell us something about the world, but how does the statement refer to the world, except by someone, who must be more than just a brain, referring to it?
To make this clear, let's take a simpler statement like: "Dick is a scien
Evanston Public  Library
The premise of D.F. Swaab’s book We Are Our Brains is perfectly reflected in its title: thanks to inherited genes and hormones washing over our fetal brains, our future characteristics, talents and limitations are largely established by the time we’re born. By adulthood, there is little about our brains that can be modified. Swaab, an internationally renowned neuroscientist, explains how mother and unborn child ‘work together’ for a successful birth; if they don’t, the child’s development may be ...more
May Ling
This book starts out much stronger than it ends. I don't think I've seen a book quite peter out like this before.

The front chapters are quite well written, rich in info, easy to follow, and possess a strong thesis. I love how he explains the brain and how the develop relates to various behaviors. He's quite specific in what can enhance or harm child brain development.

The later chapters start to mix in holistic treatments, but only half-heartedly. It's almost as if this book is a mirror of what
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This controversial Dutch doctor says that everything about human beings can be explained by the biology of our brains. It was interesting, for example, to read that natural labor is triggered by the baby's brain communicating with the mother's brain, when the mother can no longer provide enough nutrition to sustain the baby. He is also quite matter-of-fact about gender orientation being determined in the brain before birth. He condemns boxing, which is quite popular in where I live, as a form on ...more
C.J. Ruby
The parts that have been an interest of mine I found informative and interesting. Other parts went right over my head or seemed overreaching.
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter
Neurodeterminism sadly for a modern book this is full of fascinating information but so smug. Read Norman Doidge instead.
Mander Pander
You know how non fiction books have a reputation for being a little dry? It's because some of them are.
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, science, 2016, 2017
So Dr. Swaab seems like a really smart guy. But damn, would he ever be annoying to be around. Brilliant, with zero cultural and social EQ.

Glad I read his book, though. Learned a lot.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
During the process of reading the first quarter of this book, I've read some of its reviews. Of course not all of those reviews were positive and now that I've finished reading it, I'd very much like to spread my own personal opinion about these types of comments. What piqued my interest is that the majority of the negative comments that reviewers posted, had something to do with the following two points:

1. Swaab presents some of his personal conclusions as scientific facts.
This is definitely
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Keith by: University of Utah
Shelves: psychology
The first 1/4 of the book covered sexuality, variations on sexuality, and sexual disorders.

The next 1/4 of the book (or more) covered other disorders related to brain function. One of the strangest is where a person does not want a part of their body (such as a hand or arm), and wants it amputated.

The book gradually moved into more general issues with occasional relapses into describing disorders. The latter parts of the book were perhaps less interesting than the first half because it was less
Sylvia Snowe
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, medicine
A very interesting book that will change your mind about your brain and yourself. The author uses real science to link your personality, mental health, and abilities to your brain. He also shows how genetics and epigenetics affects your brain and your mental and physical health. The book's weaknesses comes from the author's desire to fight it out with religious fundamentalists about our sexuality and other issues. Skip through that part. Another weakness is that the author constantly states that ...more
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is an interesting tour of the human mind from birth to death (taking in Alzheimers along the way). As I become older, I realise more and more that we are controlled by our brain, not that we are independent minds with a free will. Swaab even argues that paedophilia is a mental health condition like any other; or that psychopaths have an undeveloped amygdala compared to normal people; or that alcoholics, drug addicts and gamblers all have an predisposition towards addiction which was written ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book includes interesting facts about the human brain. But, you will have to check these facts for yourself and all of them might not be as absolute as Swaab tries to make them out to be.

I found the book philosophically very deterministic and it can certainly induce a fatalistic attitude on the reader's part. I find the extent to which Swaab seems to think everything is predetermined by our brains' development independent of our personal input, societal influence and our current environment
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Het isgelijkteken
  • De ijzeren wil
  • Taal is zeg maar echt mijn ding
  • Kaas en de evolutietheorie
  • Die ene patiënt
  • Waarom cola duurder is dan melk
  • De meeste mensen deugen
  • En dan nog iets
  • Het zijn net mensen: beelden uit het Midden-Oosten
  • Dit kan niet waar zijn
  • Het slimme onbewuste. Denken met gevoel
  • Blikwisselingen
  • Сторітелінг для очей, вух і серця
  • Development Through the Lifespan
  • Wij slaven van Suriname
  • Gimmick!
  • Oeroeg
  • Hersenschimmen
See similar books…
Dick 'Ferdinand' Swaab is a Dutch physician and neurobiologist. He is a professor of neurobiology at the University of Amsterdam and was previously Director of the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research and the Netherlands Brain Bank.

Also publishes under the name D.F. Swaab for Elsevier and Spiegel & Grau.

News & Interviews

  Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa’s highly anticipated new book, Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America, arrives...
8 likes · 1 comments
“Cannabis affects the brain because brain cells themselves produce cannabis-like neurotransmitters. The first such compound to be identified was christened anandamide, ananda being Sanskrit for “bliss.” The proteins that transmit anandamide’s message to the brain, the receptors, are mainly located in the striatum (hence the blissful feeling) and in the cerebellum (hence the unsteady gait after taking marijuana), in the cerebral cortex (hence the problems with association, the fragmented thoughts and confusion), and in the hippocampus (hence the memory impairment). But there are no receptors in the brain stem areas that regulate blood pressure and breathing. That’s why it’s impossible to take an overdose of cannabis, as opposed to opiates.” 3 likes
“As a boy, Picasso struggled with reading, writing, and arithmetic. Einstein was slow to talk and would apply picture thinking to complex problems in the field of physics. The dividing line between psychiatric disorders and great gifts is often a very narrow one and strongly depends on how someone is viewed by their surroundings.” 3 likes
More quotes…