Art, music, and the brain

The Beautiful Brain

Sometimes known as the “father of modern neuroscience,” Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) was also an accomplished illustrator. A devoted neuroanatomist, Cajal painstakingly reproduced the brain cells and circuits he saw in the microscope in exemplary, detailed drawings. In The Beautiful Brain, the four authors use Cajal’s drawings to highlight his contributions to neuroscience as the world’s first “neuroimager.”

The Brain: The Story of You

Stanford scientist David Eagleman is back with another great book—this time, a companion to his BBC series of the same name. This is an excellent primer on how the brain creates "you" and defines your reality. His writing is easy to follow and enhanced with some colorful illustrations.

Into the Magic Shop

Neurosurgeon Jim Doty is the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. In Into the Magic Shop (named for a transformative experience he had as a boy), Doty shares his own story of moving past his successful-but-unhappy life by changing both his brain and his heart, and gives scientific and practical guidance for doing the same yourself.

On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind

What is it about "earworms," those songs we just can't get out of our heads? You may not realize how repetitive musical pieces tend to be, but Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, a cognitive musical theorist, is not only aware of this fact but fascinated by it. In On Repeat, she delves into perceptual mechanisms associated with repetition, recognition, music, learning, and much more, with an engaging style that will inform and entertain the most seasoned musician as well as the interested layperson.

On The Move: A Life

Oliver Sacks has long delighted us with his books about the brain’s quixotic variations. In this, his final book, published just a few months before his death, he finally invites us into his own life and his own brain with an autobiography filled with irreverence, discovery, loss, and joy. It is the perfect capstone to a long and lively literary career, and a wonderful remembrance and celebration of a great man and a great scientist.

The Wandering Mind: What the Brain Does When You’re Not Looking

While you’ve been reading this newsletter, your mind has probably wandered off at some point – which is totally normal. We may feel frustrated by our lack of focus, but author Michael C. Corballis is here with a positive spin on the wandering mind, and shares all of the reasons that letting our brains go here, there, and everywhere is essential to our imagination, our shared humanity, and our sense of self.