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You've probably seen it before: a human brain dramatically lit from the side, the camera circling it like a helicopter shot of Stonehenge, and a modulated baritone voice exalting the brain's elegant design in reverent tones.
To which this book says: Pure nonsense. In a work at once deeply learned and wonderfully accessible, the neuroscientist David Linden counters the widespread assumption that the brain is a paragon of design - and in its place gives us a compelling explanation of how the brain's serendipitous evolution has resulted in nothing short of our humanity. A guide to the strange and often illogical world of neural function, The Accidental Mind shows how the brain is not an optimized, general-purpose problem-solving machine, but rather a weird agglomeration of ad-hoc solutions that have been piled on through millions of years of evolutionary history. Moreover, Linden tells us how the constraints of evolved brain design have ultimately led to almost every transcendent human foible: our long childhoods, our extensive memory capacity, our search for love and long-term relationships, our need to create compelling narrative, and, ultimately, the universal cultural impulse to create both religious and scientific explanations.
With forays into evolutionary biology, this analysis of mental function answers some of our most common questions about how we've come to be who we are.
Prologue: Brain Explained 1. The Inelegant Design of the Brain 2. Building a Brain with Yesterday's Parts 3. Some Assembly Required 4. Sensation and Emotion 5. Learning, Memory, and Human Individuality 6. Love and Sex 7. Sleeping and Dreaming 8. The Religious Impulse 9. The Unintelligent Design of the Brain Epilogue: That Middle Thing Further Reading and Resources Acknowledgments Index
David J. Linden is Professor of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
[A] lively mix of solid science and fascinating case histories... The book's greatest strength is Linden's knack for demystifying biology and neuroscience... The book grips readers like a masterful teacher; those with little science experience may be surprised to find themselves interested in - and even chuckling over - the migration of neurons along radial glia, and anxious to find out what happens next. - Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Linden tells his story well, in an engaging style, with plenty of erudition and a refreshing honesty about how much remains unknown. The book should easily hold the attention of readers with little background in biology and no prior knowledge of brains... The Accidental Mind stands out for being highly readable... We still know too little about the brain's inner working to judge how well it does its job. What we do know, and what The Accidental Mind helps us to realize, is that the human brain is not designed as many have imagined." - Georg Striedter, Nature"