Synopses & Reviews
Jean-Pierre Changeux is a world-famous neurobiologist. In an era of specialization, he is one of the rare scientists who has not only disregarded interdisciplinary boundaries, but in fact bridged them. Published originally in France, where it was a runaway bestseller, his Neuronal Man is the most wide-ranging and in-depth synthesis of our current knowledge about the human brain-a balance sheet of 20 years' worth of discoveries as revolutionary as those in atomic physics at the turn of the century or genetics in the fifties. More than a guided tour of the fabulous universe of the human brain, the book presents the author's radical, groundbreaking hypothesis currently shaking up scientific circles: that there is no "mind" in man, nothing psychic, only neurons, synapses, electricity, and chemistry.
The human cerebral cortex alone (the "rind" of the brain whose evolution culminates in man) contains at least 30 billion neurons (nerve cells). As Changeux explains, these communicate with each other at the level of gaps call synapses, which are so numerous that "if one counted a thousand of them each second, between 3,000 and 30,000 years would pass before they had all been numbered.
Changeux leads us through this complexity with clarity, elegance of style, wit, and rigor, and then, moving from this solid, factual base, allows us to see the reasoning behind his theory of the biology of the brain. Neither "reductionist" nor "holistic," that is, neither reducing the functioning of the whole to that of its elements, nor seeing a whole that more than the sum of its parts, this method is global, systematic. Each element of the human system contributes to its functioning as a whole, which, in turn, influences the characteristics and development of each element. The accent is on relations and interdependencies.
At once historical and didactic, scientific and philosophical, witty and shrewd, the story he tells is an exciting one of territorial struggles, conflicts of schools, retrogressions, and breakthroughs. We explore a wealth of fact, theory, lore, and speculation, which sets into relief the development of our current knowledge of how the brain works.
Neuronal Man, a brilliant and controversial book, allows us to reconquer our internal space on the basis of a new logic. It bridges the gap between the biological and the social, between body, mind, and soul.
"Science writing of the best kind, clear, concise, scholarly, at times even poetic."--Library Journal
·"Written with great clarity, verve and grace, this detailed report...leads the reader carefully through the intricacies of an emerging science still in its infancy."--Publishers Weekly
·"Pivotal....What [Changeux] says in this book may have far-reaching effects for years to come."-Booklist
·"A revolutionary book.-L'Express
·"Neuronal Man is an event as well as a book....A thrilling exploration of the brain and the mechanisms that control our behavior."--Liberation
Table of Contents
1. The "Organ of the Soul" -- from Ancient Egypt to the Belle Epoque
2. The Component Parts of the Brain
3. Animal Spirits
4. Into Action
5. Mental Objects
6. The Power of the Genes
9. The Brain -- Representation of the World