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Learn the key ideas of the book by David Eagleman


Using neuroscience to understand ourselves better

Like every other organ in our body, the human brain has been formed through the long process of evolution to ensure the survival of our species. Most of us have an inkling that it is highly complex, yet we still believe that we have full control over our perceptions, our thoughts and our actions. In his book, Incognito, the Secret Lives of the Brain, David Eagleman explains how much power the unconscious mind has over the conscious one, and that most of what we think and do is driven by automated processes, which, he explains, is a good thing!

Read in 15 min.
Listen in 19 min.

The human species is the only one which seeks to decipher its own complex functioning, by studying the brain

The human brain weighs just over a kilo, and is contained in the neurocranium, or braincase. It is gelatinous, and is made up of neurons and glial cells, each of which has a degree of complexity comparable to that of an entire city. Neurons communicate with each other through connections: this system is also extremely complex, in fact, in a cubic centimetre of brain matter, there are as many connections as there are stars in the Milky Way.

Both the actions and perceptions of our entire body are governed by the brain and nervous system, which works like a computer which collects and processes millions of pieces of information. As far as we know, human beings are the only living species that have ever attempted to decipher their own workings, that is, the functioning of the perfect and wonderful machine we call the brain.


The key ideas of "Incognito"

The human species is the only one which seeks to decipher its own complex functioning, by studying the brain
Everything has a physical dimension, including our thoughts, since they depend on what happens in our brain
We are ineffective observers because we overestimate what our senses tell us
Vision does not exist in isolation when we choose to observe the world: our brain has to learn how to see
The sensory system is a modulator of information, not a generator
Consciously thinking about some unconscious activities that we do would lead us to make mistakes
The circuits of our brain are set up to promote behaviours that will ensure our survival
Our perception of beauty is found in the depths of our brain
In the words of Walt Whitmans, every human being “contains multitudes”
Rational vs emotional systems: how we make decisions
Illness or other events can change the brain, and consequently, our behaviour
Rehabilitation is better than punishment: a legal system that is compatible with the front of our brain
Can we really know who we are? Neuroscience does not have all the answers yet
Take-home message
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