Mapping the Mind

Rita Carter, Author
Rita Carter, Author University of California Press $45 (224p) ISBN 978-0-520-21937-3
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Hardcover - 264 pages - 978-0-7641-5139-2
Hardcover - 372 pages - 978-0-7538-1019-4
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 224 pages - 978-0-520-92531-1
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-520-22461-2
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Carter, a distinguished English medical journalist, has written a handsome and very accessible book designed to introduce laypeople to contemporary neurochemistry, neurobiology and brain research. Carter shows how this research has traced emotions, impressions, thoughts and behaviors--from tasting a sprig of thyme to solving a math problem to killing an intruder--to particular parts of the brain. Descriptions of normal brain function are interspersed with details about the research and about extraordinary, illuminating cases: of the woman to whom the name ""Richard"" tasted like chocolate, of the man who tried to have sex with a sidewalk. Readers learn that sense-data from the eyes and ears go first to the thalamus; that falling in love may be caused by a single chemical called oxytocin; and that one thinker, Itzhak Fried, has hypothesized ""syndrome E,"" a neurobiological disorder, in young men who carry out genocides. Mixing established knowledge with new speculations, Carter takes care to tell readers which is which. She strews her text with bright diagrams and pictures, and avoids specialized or technical language: readers of Scientific American, or even of Oliver Sacks, may find themselves wishing for more detail. Carter seems to be writing for adults and teens who don't know the field and want to learn it, and she does it right. Short inset essays (some by distinguished scientists, others by Carter) address such specific topics as the chemistry of drug addiction, the origins of autism and alleged differences between gay and straight brains. 100 color & 50 b&w illustrations. (Mar.)
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