States of Mind: New Discoveries about How Our Brains Make Us Who We Are

Roberta Conlon, Author, J. Alllenna Hobson, Author, K. Conlan, Author John Wiley & Sons $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-471-29963-9
Eight crisply written reports about groundbreaking advances in brain research form this accessible tome based on a lecture series. Joseph LeDoux, NYU brain scientist, describes his exciting investigations into the human brain's ""fear system"" for detecting and responding to danger. The workings of this quick-response system, which bypasses the higher, ""thinking"" parts of the brain, provide a neurological basis for Freud's theory of the unconscious, he asserts. At the opposite pole, Harvard psychiatry professor J. Allan Hobson argues that while dreams consolidate memories and learning, their strange images are merely incidental physiological by-products, rather than symbols fraught with emotional meaning. Noting the prevalence of manic-depressive illness and depression among renowned artists, writers and composers, Johns Hopkins psychiatry professor Kay Redfield Jamison suggests that the genes predisposing an individual to these disorders might also confer a proclivity for creativity. Attempts to get rid of or to mute these genes pose a dilemma for society, she declares, since they may constitute one source of artistic genius. Bruce McEwen of Rockefeller University reports that chronic stress not only exacerbates a host of illnesses but also damages the hippocampus, a brain structure involved with memory, and Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan explains why he believes our individual brain chemistries at birth predispose us to be outgoing or shy, bold or fearful. Based on a 1997 lecture series co-sponsored by Smithsonian Associates and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, an organization of U.S. brain researchers, the volume is enhanced by chapter headnotes and illustrations ranging from a medieval medical woodcut to modern brain scans. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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