A trailblazing journey into the brain, showing how perception, thought, and action all depend on 'maps' etched into your gray matter – and how technology can use these maps to read your mind
Your brain is a collection of maps. That is no metaphor: scrawled across your brain's surfaces are actual schematic images of the sights, sounds, and actions that hold the key to your survival.
Scientists first began uncovering these maps over a century ago, but we are only now beginning to unlock their secrets. Our inner cartography distorts and shapes our experience of the world, supporting complex thought, and making technology-enabled mind-reading a reality. The maps in our brain raise important questions about what is real, what is fair, and what is private. They shine a light on our past and our possible futures, and invite us to view ourselves from a startling new perspective.
In Brainscapes, Rebecca Schwarzlose combines unforgettable real-life stories, cutting-edge research, and vivid illustrations to reveal brain maps' surprising lessons about our place in the world – and the world's place within us.
Rebecca Schwarzlose is a cognitive neuroscientist studying the developing brain at Washington University in Saint Louis. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from MIT and served as chief editor of the scholarly journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences for three years. She has been obsessed with both writing and the mind since she was a girl. She now finds beauty in the brain’s capacity to represent and distil the big, wide world.
"Rebecca Schwarzlose is a neuroscientist with a novelist's literary flair. Brainscapes is a profoundly illuminating account of how the brain works – and of how the maps within our heads determine what we see, recognize, remember, and feel. It's about miracles, and it's a complete inspiration"
– Cass R. Sunstein, author of Too Much Information
"This book is the Lonely Planet travel guide to the brain. With humility, humor, and the familiarity of a local, Rebecca Schwarzlose takes you by the hand and shows you around some of the strangest landscapes of the cortex. In Brainscapes, the brain becomes an open atlas, full of illuminating maps – just one of many enlightening metaphors in this meticulously documented and artfully decorated book"
– Stanislas Dehaene, author of Consciousness and the Brain
"In lively prose, Schwarzlose introduces you to your inner cartographer: a complex brain that continuously constructs shifting maps of the world, charted from the perspective of your own body. These maps are not just created by you – they are you. They conjure what you feel, what you remember, and what you do"
– Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
"In Brainscapes, Rebecca Schwarzlose takes the reader on a journey through the brain by explaining all the ways it uses 'maps' to help us experience the world and act in it. I thoroughly enjoyed this broad in scope, and beautifully written, book"
– Joseph LeDoux, author of The Deep History of Ourselves
"A beautiful book about one of the most fundamental properties of the brain – its ability as a mapmaker. The meat in our heads organizes and controls everything we do, from perception to emotion, action to cognition, by mapping complex information into simple spaces. Brainscapes explains that deep truth in clear, compelling language. It's a fascinating, well-told story"
– Michael Graziano, author of Rethinking Consciousness
"Clear, often vivid history"