Summer 2018 Brainy Reading List

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Summer is finally here! In celebration, we’ve put together a list of seven brainy books, authored by members of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) or prominent neuroscientists, for you to grab on your way to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine:

The Consciousness Instinct: Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind by DABI member Michael S. Gazzaniga, Ph.D., Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Consciousness Instinct is a fun and informative read about a topic that is often written about in ways that are either boring or incomprehensible. Gazzaniga was one of the first scientists in modern times to dare talk about consciousness. He’s been at it for five decades, and keeps coming up with new and interesting ideas. Your consciousness will be raised.
― DABI member Joseph E. LeDoux, Ph.D., New York University

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Discussing the Mystery of Consciousness

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What is consciousness? How can we use language to define it? Is there a way to measure it scientifically? Is it something only humans have, or do animals and plants have consciousness too? Does it require awareness of the self? What does it mean to have consciousness?

These questions inspired “The Mystery of Consciousness,” a recent discussion between neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, M.D., Ph.D., and philosopher David Chalmers, Ph.D., at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. The conversation was the first public event hosted by the newly formed Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement (ICE) at Dartmouth University, an organization that seeks to create dialogue between the sciences and humanities.

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Tickets for Brainwave 2014 Now on Sale

Tickets for New York’s Rubin Museum of Art’s Brainwave program are now on sale to the public. This year’s theme is “mind over matter,” and the series includes a variety of artists, athletes, and scientists, among other specialists. In the paired conversations, featured speakers will talk about “the role the brain plays in helping us over-come adversity, survive tests of endurance and understand faith.”

Of particular note with the winter Olympics only weeks away is three-time Olympian and World Figure Skating Hall of Fame inductee Brian Boitano, speaking with research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister on Wednesday, January 15. Also, don’t miss Dana Alliance members Paul Glimcher and Antonio Damasio: Glimcher will speak with basketball legend and current Knicks announcer Walt Frazier on Jan. 31, and Damasio will talk with philosopher Rebecca Goldstein on March 6.

The Rubin Museum is a Brain Awareness Week partner.

–Ann L. Whitman

Self Comes to Mind explores the roots of consciousness

Dana Alliance Member Antonio Damasio, M.D. Ph.D., has a new book coming out tomorrow, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain.

In it, Damasio explores the roots of consciousness, arguing that it stems from a biological process tied to one of the oldest parts of the brain, the brain stem, rather than from the newer cerebral cortex. You don’t have to wait for the book to come out to begin examining his views: He discusses topics in the book in a series of videos and on BigThink.com.

Southern California’s Public Radio program AirTalk featured an interview with Damasio last week, which can be heard here.

Today, Jonah Lehrer posted an interview with Damasio on his blog, The Frontal Cortex. Here’s a highlight:

LEHRER: I think many readers will be surprised that, in your attempt to explain the mystery of consciousness, you begin with discussions of the body. Why, as you write, is “the body the foundation of the conscious mind”? And why does the brain stem, this most ancient of brain areas, play such an important role in consciousness?

DAMASIO: That is where having an evolutionary perspective comes in handy. Why do we have a brain in the first place? Not to write books, articles, or plays; not to do science or play music. Brains develop because they are an expedient way of managing life in a body. And why do we, by now, have brains that make minds with selves — conscious minds? Because minds and selves increase the management power of brains; because they permit a better adaptation of a complex organism to complex environments. In other words, organisms equipped with brains, minds and self were selected by evolution because such organisms had better chances of survival, and, eventually, chances of survival with well-being.

The emphasis on the brain stem is closely related to the star role that the body plays in my account of minds and selves. The brain stem nuclei hold the principles and the rules required to manage life in our bodies. The cerebral cortex, on the other hand, ends up helping the organism manage life, according to those principles. That is the heart of the matter, really!

–Johanna Goldberg

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