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Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Uniqueby Michael S. Gazzaniga
Synopses & Reviews
One of the world's leading neuroscientists explores how best to understand the human condition by examining the biological, psychological, and highly social nature of our species within the social context of our lives.
What happened along the evolutionary trail that made humans so unique? In his widely accessible style, Michael Gazzaniga looks to a broad range of studies to pinpoint the change that made us thinking, sentient humans, different from our predecessors.
Neuroscience has been fixated on the life of the psychological self for the past fifty years, focusing on the brain systems underlying language, memory, emotion, and perception. What it has not done is consider the stark reality that most of the time we humans are thinking about social processes, comparing ourselves to and estimating the intentions of others. In Human, Gazzaniga explores a number of related issues, including what makes human brains unique, the importance of language and art in defining the human condition, the nature of human consciousness, and even artificial intelligence.
"As wide-ranging as it is deep, and as entertaining as it is informative, the latest offering from UC — Santa Barbara neuroscientist Gazzaniga (The Ethical Brain) will please a diverse array of readers. He is adept at aiding even the scientifically unsophisticated to grasp his arguments about what separates humans from other animals. His main premise is that human brains are not only proportionately larger than those of other primates but have a number of distinct structures, which he explores along with evolutionary explanations for their existence. For instance, a direct outgrowth of the size and structure of the human brain, along with their origins in the complexity of human social groups, was the development of language, self-awareness and ethics. (Gazzaniga offers some surprising comments on the evolution of religion and its relation to morals.) Throughout, Gazzaniga addresses the nature of consciousness, and by comparing the intellectual capabilities of a host of animals (chimps, dogs, birds and rats, among others) with those of human babies, children and adults, he shows what we all share as well as what humans alone possess. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A savvy, witty guide to neuroscience today." Kirkus Reviews
Book News Annotation:
Perhaps best-known for his work with 'split-brain' patients that showed that the right and left brain hemispheres have differing functions, Gazzaniga (SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, U. of California-Santa Barbara) tackles questions about what makes humans unique. In discussing the neurological basis of language, empathy, self-awareness, the aesthetic sense, and the ability to detect cheating, he argues that these capabilities emerged because of social interaction. He also discusses the implications of current/ emerging neuroprosthetics (e.g., cochlear implants, brain-computer interfaces). His other books for general audiences include The Ethical Brain, The Social Brain, and Mind Matters. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Michael S. Gazzaniga is the director of the University of California-Santa Barbara's SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, as well as its Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience. He serves on the President's Council on Bioethics and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dr. Gazzaniga is the author of The Ethical Brain and lives in California.
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