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.”
Art, music, and the brain
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.
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.
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.
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.
This brand new book from professor Jonathan Fineberg tackles a subject that’s of interest to many of us: how our interaction with art influences and shapes the brain. He discusses why humans have made art for dozens of millennia, how engaging with art expands our consciousness, and much more.
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.
It might sound like a strange question, but how much do you play in your daily life? In Stuart Brown’s fun book, he makes the case for play, and explains how it can benefit our brains, our creativity, our happiness, and much more. In fact, he argues that playing is some of the “most important work we ever do.”
Michael Gazzaniga is one of the best known names in modern neuroscience. While he has written many other books, this is the first to weave his scientific achievements with his personal life. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to live and work as a neuroscientist, this excellent, relatable book is a good start.
What is the connection between neuroscience and aesthetics? This is the topic of Anjan Chatterjee’s new book, in which he explores the world of pleasure, art, and beauty to uncover how humans evolved to enjoy and desire aesthetically pleasing things. The Aesthetic Brain is a must-read for any art-lover with an interest in how the brain works!