Synopses & Reviews
BRILLIANTLY EXPLORING TODAY'S CUTTING-EDGE BRAIN RESEARCH, MIND WIDE OPEN
IS AN UNPRECEDENTED JOURNEY INTO THE ESSENCE OF HUMAN PERSONALITY, ALLOWING READERS TO UNDERSTAND THEMSELVES AND THE PEOPLE IN THEIR LIVES AS NEVER BEFORE.
Using a mix of experiential reportage, personal storytelling, and fresh scientific discovery, Steven Johnson describes how the brain works -- its chemicals, structures, and subroutines -- and how these systems connect to the day-to-day realities of individual lives. For a hundred years, he says, many of us have assumed that the most powerful route to self-knowledge took the form of lying on a couch, talking about our childhoods. The possibility entertained in this book is that you can follow another path, in which learning about the brain's mechanics can widen one's self-awareness as powerfully as any therapy or meditation or drug.
In Mind Wide Open, Johnson embarks on this path as his own test subject, participating in a battery of attention tests, learning to control video games by altering his brain waves, scanning his own brain with a $2 million fMRI machine, all in search of a modern answer to the oldest of questions: who am I?
Along the way, Johnson explores how we "read" other people, how the brain processes frightening events (and how we might rid ourselves of the scars those memories leave), what the neurochemistry is behind love and sex, what it means that our brains are teeming with powerful chemicals closely related to recreational drugs, why music moves us to tears, and where our breakthrough ideas come from.
Johnson's clear, engaging explanation of the physical functions of the brain reveals not only the broad strokes of our aptitudes and fears, our skills and weaknesses and desires, but also the momentary brain phenomena that a whole human life comprises. Why, when hearing a tale of woe, do we sometimes smile inappropriately, even if we don't want to? Why are some of us so bad at remembering phone numbers but brilliant at recognizing faces? Why does depression make us feel stupid?
To read Mind Wide Open is to rethink family histories, individual fates, and the very nature of the self, and to see that brain science is now personally transformative -- a valuable tool for better relationships and better living.
"It's the rare popular science book that not only gives the reader a gee-whiz glimpse at an emerging field, but also offers a guide for incorporating its new insights into one's own worldview....[A] fascinating, engagingly written new survey." Publishers Weekly
"Celebrates the brain's complexity and wonder even as it demonstrates that you can get to know your mind better than you ever thought." Kirkus Reviews
"Spreading a gospel to be curious about one's own mind, Johnson, aided by personal anecdotes about, for example, the length of his attention span, will snare even those unfamiliar with brain science." Booklist
"Johnson possesses the rare ability to ground abstract ideas in concrete human realities, while leavening heavy explanations with humor and heart." Geeta Dayal, The Village Voice
A brilliant, head-spinning exploration of today's cutting-edge brain research, "Mind Wide Open" is an unprecedented exploration of the nature of the self, compelling readers to rethink the essence of human personality and individual fate.
About the Author
Steven Johnson is the author of Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, which was named as a finalist for the 2002 Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2001, as well as a "best book of the year" in Discover, Esquire, The Washington Post, and The Village Voice. He writes the monthly "Emerging Technology" column for Discover and is a contributing editor at Wired. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, The New Yorker, Harper's, and The Guardian. He is also the author of Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate. Johnson holds a B.A. in semiotics from Brown University and an M.A. in English from Columbia. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.
Table of Contents
Preface: Kafka's Room
1 Mind Sight
2 The Sum of My Fears
3 Your Attention, Please
4 Survival of the Ticklish
5 The Hormones Talking
6 Scan Thyself
Conclusion: Mind Wide Open