Cutting-edge research

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.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, scientist David P. Barash says “It’s no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.” Indeed, Robert Sapolsky’s seminal new work is a humorous, exciting, and challenging examination of what it is in human nature and experience that drives our responses to one another, including what allows us to act so aggressively and violently towards one another. Ultimately, he hopes that a better understanding of the complexity of what drives our behavior can help us pave the way toward a more peaceful and compassionate future.

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.

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.

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?

Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain

In this fascinating book, neurobiologist Douglas Fields traces “snapping” (outbreaks of rage) to a small cluster of neurons in the “hypothalamic attack region” of the brain. Throughout human history, this region has played an important role in responding to threats—and at times, it still leads to heroic actions in the face of danger. But our modern world often triggers the “snapping” reaction inappropriately. The good news is that if you can identify the triggers, you can help prevent snapping—in yourself or others.

Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body

In Cure, Jo Marchant takes a scientific perspective to explore the mind’s ability to heal the body. She follows the latest research from serious scientists to shed light on how our minds can be helpful in the healing process, as well as what the limitations likely are. In the end, she advocates an approach to medical healing that incorporates the best of our current technology (drugs, surgeries, and so on) while giving greater support to the potential role of the mind.

The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self

In Anil Ananthaswamy's new book, he delves into the latest neuroscience research about major brain diseases like schizophrenia and autism, as well as some not-so-mainstream issues like out-of-body experiences and odd and rare mental disorders. With his leaning towards personal storytelling and case studies, Ananthaswamy is clearly influenced by the oeuvre of Oliver Sacks, but adds his own voice and style to the field.

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.