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A User's Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,684 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
John Ratey, bestselling author and clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, here lucidly explains the human brain’s workings, and paves the way for a better understanding of how the brain affects who we are. Ratey provides insight into the basic structure and chemistry of the brain, and demonstrates how its systems shape our perceptions, emotions, and be ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published January 8th 2002 by Vintage (first published January 9th 2001)
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Mohsen Rajabi
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
در روزگاری که هرکس حقیقتی را برمیگزیند و هرکس روشی برای رسیدن به آن میدهد، شاید شناخت واقعی مسائل و شناخت درستی یا نادرستی مسائل فکری و فلسفی کار آسانی نباشد. اما نکتهای که جالب است و تقریبا هر دیدگاه و مکتبی به آن معتقد است، ضرورت شناخت خودمان است. در این میان بیراه نیست که بگوییم از هرمنظری که نگاه کنیم شناخت مغز و کارکردهای آن شاید ضروریترین جنبهی خودشناسی باشد، چون وجود و هویت انسانی خودمان را مدیون این عضو حیاتی و بینظیر خود هستیم.
مغز مهمترین و پیچیدهترین عضو بدن است. بسیار پیچیدهتر از سایر
Lisa Duffy-Korpics
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book that explains all the aspects of the brain in an intelligent, yet accessible way that is easily understood by the regular person. No need to have a Neuroscience degree to grasp this book - however it never talks down to the reader. Written by John J. Ratey, M.D., a clinical professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, this book touches on memory, language, movement, emotion and social ability and how our brain is "plastic" or changeable througout our lives. A study involvin ...more
Sarah Milne
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the single best "pop-neuro" book I have read. It is a fascinating look at the four theaters of the brain that ultimately makes the point that biology is at the root of mental disorders, and while that does not excuse behavior, it is extremely liberating. A couple quotes:

“Despite all this activity going on in the brain, the treatment of mental disorders—extreme and mild—has centered upon the lone issue of “affect”: a person’s emotional state. Since the earliest days of psychiatry, every d
Oct 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
The idea for this book was excellent: take all of the intricate, ground-breaking information in neuroscience and psychology, simpify it as much as possible to educate every-day readers, and add a "how to" component to show the information's practicality, importance, and usefulness. Coming from an author and clinician as well established as John Ratey (he works at Harvard), I expected nothing less than an intelligent, compelling book.

A User's Guide reads like a condensed version of my freshman ye

Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked up A User's Guide to the Brain from a library booksale. As someone with brain problems of some variety, I've developed a strong interest in finding out how brains actually work.

Ratey does a good job of balancing actual science with writing that is easily understandable. I appreciated his non-judgemental and hopeful tone, and I found some of his insights really useful, especially regarding the importance of motor centres in the brain and the connection between movement and thinking, the
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Very engaging at times, though I felt it dragged a bit in the middle.

Well-written, but still falls easily within the category of shoulda-had-me-proofread-it.

Much fascinating information. Easy to appreciate, this relatively non-technical yet non-dumbed-down little introduction to the physiology of our noggins and, of course, selves.

Several tidbits that will stay with me:

If you've just learned some new vocabulary words or are trying to integrate information, you have to get some REM sleep in ord
Tom S
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
As someone with no prior background or experience in neuroscience or psychology I found this book a fascinating insight into the complexities of the brain.

The author initially sets out his goal of providing an accessible read to all by eschewing complex medical terms for easy to understand concepts through metaphors. These certainly provide a fantastic level of accessibility but at the expense of a certain level of repetition.

I think the intended target of this book is freshman undertaking studi
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction
"A User's Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain" by John J. Ratey, "lucidly explains the human brain’s workings, and paves the way for a better understanding of how the brain affects who we are. Ratey provides insight into the basic structure and chemistry of the brain, and demonstrates how its systems shape our perceptions, emotions, and behavior. By giving us a greater understanding of how the brain responds to the guidance of its user, he provides us wi ...more
Heather Wright
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
This was a fascinating read. I learned so much about how the brain works, how easy it is to train (when you know what you're doing), and how one small thing in one small piece of it can affect everything else and have huge consequences. I highly recommend this to anyone who has a brain of their own and most especially anyone who is or knows someone who is ADHD, has dealt with any mental illness, or in any way falls on the spectrum of "different" based on their mental capacities or tendencies. It ...more
Ehsan Doostmohammadi
متنی ساده و روان جهت شناساندن مهمترین عضو شناختی بدن، مغز، به کاربران آن! هرآنکس که میخواهد از مغزش به هر نحوی استفادهی بهتری داشته باشد بایسته است که این کتاب را بخواند. البته ترجمه اندک اشکالاتی دارد که قابل چشمپوشی است، خصوصا آنکه کل متن انگلیسی کتاب در پانویس آمده است (شوخی!) ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"The idle mind is the devil's plaything"
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, most people would expect this to "just be another boring science book" but I in fact quite enjoyed it. Not only does it give factual info in a fun way but it also includes actual stories about what the chapters are about, not just cold hard facts. would I recommend this book to others? Definitely! Its a great book and interesting to boot.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psych-misc, neurology
I loved so many things I learned from this book. I wasn't half-way through it, before I started to feel really bad about my lack of patience for people who very likley suffer from maladies caused by problems with their brain. What I really love about Ratey's writing, is that though he explains the physiological aspect of things, he doesn't stand on the premise that people can't help their behavior. I added to my favorite quotes this passage:

"The point to remember is that the issue is not nature
Dec 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those looking 4 an intro to neuro-science
Recommended to Chaz by: a professor

Ratey was a required reading for HUMAN BEHAVIOR 836, I enjoyed reading it much more than I originally would have thought. His cadence and scientific insight makes this introduction to neuroscience a thought-provoking read. He divides his writing by our brain's capacities and 'powers' and adapts them to the current theories in the field of psychiatry. What makes this book readable is his ability to weave in personal experience as a clinician. He provides many examples on how the brain can overrea
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it
This really was a fascinating book, and I learned a lot. However, it took me a long time to get through the middle of this book. The vocabulary (even though it's "dumbed down") made my head reel a bit. There were good diagrams scattered throughout that were references for the different parts of the brain he happened to be discussing at the time, but they weren't very useful to me. If I could have had a diagaram of the brain light up each time he talked about a specific area, I think I would have ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it liked it
This book provides a good overview of some of the current research on the brain. However, I was a little skeptical about some of Ratey's claims. He stated a few times that a theory was "proven", but anyone who has studied science knows that researchers don't "prove" theories, they gather evidence to support them. The basis of the scientific method is that researchers attempt to disprove a hypothesis, and if they fail to do so, it becomes a theory. I suppose I'm just being picky about language, t ...more
Scientists are constantly learning new insights about the brain and how it works, and this book is a good overview of our current understanding of the neurobiological workings of the brain. Ratey sheds a little light on what is going on chemically in the brain as we experience daily life, and also discusses the neurological processes linked to disorders like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. For me, one of the most interesting aspects was when he noted that Tourette's syndrome (which the popular mind ...more
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a remarkably accessible book given the complexity of the topic. Ratey has a knack for clarifying topics in neuroscience without dumbing them down, though having at least a passing familiarity with general brain structure and function would certainly ease a reader's comprehension of the book. Ratey also makes excellent points regarding the holistic nature of brain function, approaching topics like the senses and memory from angles that spark new perspectives within the reader's own brain ...more
Sam Bennett
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well written book about one of the main theories of brain disorders, how the brain functions at a chemical level, and ways the understanding of the biological basis for neural functioning provides a "scientific" basis
for avenues for the treatment of our dysfunctions. Esp. reinforced is the idea of how motion and proprioceptics work back and forth with thought to reinforce each other. Ultimately he scratches the surface of consciousness and the much more creative and holistic look at how we are c
Dec 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
I enjoyed how well the author articulated some of the shortcomings of the current method of diagnosis based solely on personality and behavior. The discussion on the four theaters of the brain and how they interact was very insightful. The author's philosophy of a more holistic approach to therapy is along the same lines that I have been thinking lately.

Some of the discussion of the different brain systems were a little too detailed and difficult for me to focus on. However, the strength of this
Diana Polansky
May 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
A great pre-date book or pre-dinner party book. Seriously. I'm not kidding.

See what you can do with the following passage, among others:

"...lust is associated primarily with estrogen and androgens. Attraction, however is associated with elation and a craveing for emotional union, which may be linked to the monoamines such as serotonin. The Neurotransmitters associated with long-term attachment--a behavior evidenced by close body contact, separation anxiety, and a sense of calm, security, and pea
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, 2010
Had I not found the author's style so confusing, I would have given this 4 stars, not three. I think I owe it a re-read and am going to mark it as such. As a neophyte in this area, I would have done better with more in the way of straight-forward vocabulary and physiology and less in the way of cute anecdotes, most of which were interesting, but some of which verged on the six year old's shaggy dog story that has neither end nor beginning.

Perhaps it will hold up better on re-read, we shall to s
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read on the human mind/brain. It is organized really well and easy to understand. I have used it for teaching related to dementia based on the idea that it is helpful to understand how a healthy brain works before understanding what can happen when disease sets in. Someone borrowed my copy and never returned it. Boo hoo! This is a good reminder to order it now while it's still fresh on my mind. Hey Goodreads is not only fun but useful.
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting. This book is written clearly and has great, tangible examples to explain neurology to the reader. It talks about development, "the use it or lose it" theories and many fascinating details about how we can train our brain to focus, balance and learn to be able to learn more. I read this in bits and pieces over several months...tidbits here and there is a good way to absorb the book.
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found it difficult to read this book in the same way as I would any other book, that is from start to finish. It is quite technical and there is a lot of information in there to absorb, all of which is very informative and has made me understand the brain in much more detail that I did before, but hard going. I find it a great reference book to dip in and out of when I want to know more about a certain topic.
Jul 19, 2014 added it
This is a good introduction to neuroscience for those outside the field. I particularly enjoyed reading it because it lacks the usual, yet unnecessary, popularising that most such books tend to have. However, beware this also makes the work harder to read than such popular books. Basically, it's an introduction at a scientific and intellectually challenging level, not the self-help summer read that some might be seeking.
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oh wow. I didn't expect to like this one nearly as much as I did. One weekend trip and two plane rides later, I blinked and was over halfway done. That's how smoothly this flows. You have to have a knack for science or be some kind of nerd to enjoy it, and if you did any pscyhology in college then the first 100 pages involve a lot of primer and repetition, but it picks up after that.
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: budding neuroscientists
Helpful but ultimately disappointing as the graphics weren't good & the chapters didn't hang together all that well, sometimes felt like he was including articles that he'd read just to show he's read them. I did learn a lot: at my age, it's hard to retain the facts & they weren't presented in a memorable way.
May 03, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is a pretty good one if you want to get into neuroscience. My only problem was that Ratey kept using very annoying platitudes such as "Use it or lose it". He also tended to deviate from what he was talking about, and then suddenly get back to the point. Other than that, it is a very good book, and I learned many things I didn't know, as well as reviewing over things I already did.
May 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
A fair overview of neurobiology and behavior, from a psychiatrist's perspective. Some of the information is now getting dated, or was never quite accurate, and it's a little "textbooky," but overall the book is interesting and well-written. The author could have done a little better with his references though.
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Dr. Ratey and Dr. Hallowell began studying ADHD in the 1980s and co-authored Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood (1994), the first in a series of books that demystify the disorder. Dr. Ratey also co-authored Shadow Syndromes (1997) with Catherine Johnson, PhD, in which he describes the phenomenon of milder forms of clinical ...more
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