Synopses & Reviews
“This is complicated stuff, and it is a testament to Dr. Seung’s remarkable clarity of exposition that the reader is swept along with his enthusiasm, as he moves from the basics of neuroscience out to the farthest regions of the hypothetical, sketching out a spectacularly illustrated giant map of the universe of man.”—Abigail Zuger, M.D., New York Times
Every person is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, that uniqueness resides. Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our character. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?
Sebastian Seung is at the forefront of a revolution in neuroscience. He believes that our identity lies not in our genes, but in the connections between our brain cells—our particular wiring. Seung and a dedicated group of researchers are leading the effort to map these connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It’s a monumental effort, but if they succeed, they will uncover the basis of personality, identity, intelligence, memory, and perhaps disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.
Connectome is a mind-bending adventure story that presents a daring scientific and technological vision for understanding what makes us who we are, both as individuals and as a species.
“Accessible, witty, imminently logical and at times poetic, Connectome establishes Seung as an important new researcher, philosopher and popularizer of brain science. It puts him on par with cosmology’s Brian Greene and the late Carl Sagan.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
Wall Street Journal's 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2012
Amazon's Top 100 Editor's Picks for 2012
Publishers Weekly Top Ten in Science for Spring 2012
“The best lay book on brain science Ive ever read.”
— Wall Street Journal by Daniel Levitin, Professor, McGill University; author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs.
“This is complicated stuff, and it is a testament to Dr. Seungs remarkable clarity of exposition that the reader is swept along with his enthusiasm, as he moves from the basics of neuroscience out to the farthest regions of the hypothetical, sketching out a spectacularly illustrated giant map of the universe of man.”
— New York Times
“[A] bracing, mind-expanding report from neurosciences razor edge. Accessible, witty, [e]minently logical and at times poetic, Connectome establishes Seung as an important new researcher, philosopher and popularizer of brain science. It puts him on par with cosmologys Brian Greene and the late Carl Sagan.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Seung argues intelligently and powerfully that the self lies in the totality of the brains wiring.”
— Nature by Christof Koch, Professor, California Institute of Technology; Chief Scientific Officer, Allen Institute for Brain Science; author of Quest for Consciousness and Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist
“With the first-person flavour of James Watsons Double Helix—an account of how DNAs structure was discovered—Connectome gives a sense of the excitement on the cutting edge of neuroscience.”
— NewScientist by Terry Sejnowski, Professor and Director, Computational Neurobiology Lab, Salk Institute; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Member, National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering USA.
“An elegant primer on whats known about how the brain is organized and how it grows, wires its neurons, perceives its environment, modifies or repairs itself, and stores information. Seung is a clear, lively writer who chooses vivid examples.”
— Washington Post
“Sebastian Seung scales the heights of neuroscience and casts his brilliant eye around, describing the landscape of its past and boldly envisioning a future when we may understand our own brains and thus ourselves.”
—Kenneth Blum, Executive Director, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University
“Sebastian Seung can do it all. Hes widely recognized as a superb physicist, a whiz with computers, and a path-breaking neuroscientist. Connectome shows that he's also a terrific writer, as inspiring as he is clear and good humored.”
—Steven Strogatz, Cornell University, author of Sync: the Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order
“In Connectome, Sebastian Seung reminds us that the human brain has contemplated itself for centuries. This is an important book, full of refreshingly new science and engaging history, about the essential quest to understand ourselves.”
—Phillip A. Sharp, MIT, 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
“A landmark work, gorgeously written. No other researcher has traveled as deeply into the brain forest and emerged to share its secrets.”
—David Eagleman, author of Incognito and Sum
“Connectomics is emerging as a crucial and exhilarating field of study. Sebastian Seung takes you by the hand and shows you why. Connectome is a page turner—a book that should be read by anyone who lays claim to be thinking about the nature of life.”
—Michael Gazzaniga, University of California at Santa Barbara and author of Human and The Ethical Brain
The audacious effort to map the brain—and along with it our mental afflictions, from autism to schizophrenia—by a rising star in neuroscience.
About the Author
Sebastian Seung is Professor of Computational Neuroscience at MIT and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has made important advances in robotics, neuroscience, neuroeconomics, and statistical physics. His research has been published in leading scientific journals, and also featured in the New York Times, Technology Review, and the Economist.
Table of Contents
Introduction • ix
Part I: Does Size Matter?
1 Genius and Madness • 3
2 Border Disputes • 22
Part II: Connectionism
3 No Neuron Is an Island • 39
4 Neurons All the Way Down • 60
5 The Assembly of Memories • 76
Part III: Nature and Nurture
6 The Forestry of the Genes • 99
7 Renewing Our Potential • 116
Part IV: Connectomics
8 Seeing Is Believing • 137
9 Following the Trail • 155
10 Carving • 170
11 Codebreaking • 185
12 Comparing • 201
13 Changing • 216
Part V: Beyond Humanity
14 To Freeze or to Pickle? • 233
15 Save As . . . • 254
Epilogue • 274
Acknowledgments • 277
Notes • 279
References • 314
Figure Credits • 335
Index • 336