Brain plasticity

Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death

In his latest book, neuroscientist Adrian Owen explores the “gray zone”—the space between full consciousness and brain death, where people have working minds in damaged bodies. Dr. Owen’s research suggests that up to 20% of people once thought to be in vegetative states are actually in this “gray zone”—aware and capable of thought on some level, but immobile. What are the implications of this discovery for the patients themselves, as well as for legislation, families, religion, and insurance? What even counts as life? Dr. Owen attempts to answer these questions and more.

Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives

As our population expands, we will need to build houses, office buildings, parks, and other spaces, both public and private, to keep up. But what kinds of places should we build? Architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen takes the reader on a trip to architectural treasures and horrors, calling on research in neuroscience, anthropology, and psychology to understand how our built environment shapes human perception and cognition.

Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential

Mindshift helps us work through some of our preconceived notions about what is possible for us to learn and achieve. It also discusses how traits that may be seen as negative—like worrying and losing focus—have hidden benefits for creativity and success. If you are feeling stuck in a rut, and having trouble moving forward - Mindshift may help you break out and get to the next level.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

It’s hard to imagine a creature as different from a human as an octopus. But we share something in common: intelligence. In Other Minds, science philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith ponders the evolution of sentience in cephalopods (the octopus, squid, and cuttlefish family), which happened separately from (and before) the development of human consciousness. What are the commonalities in these parallel evolutions of intelligence?

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.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease

This book is conversational in tone but the stories it touches on go from hilarious to heartbreaking in a matter of moments. Ropper, a Harvard professor and clinician who counts Michael J. Fox among his patients, brings some of his most fascinating neurological patients to life. Written very much in the tradition of the Oliver Sacks oeuvre, Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole manages to be fun and informative at the same time.

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.

Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

Do teenagers sometimes mystify you? Brainstorm can help. In it, neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel explains how the brain changes between the ages of 12 and 24 in ways that dramatically affect behavior. He believes that a better understanding of the brain during these formative years can help us all appreciate this period of tremendous growth and change. And that, in turn, can help both parents and teens navigate this tumultuous period of life.