Modern scientific research has provided new insight into how the brain works at every stage of life and how chemical processes in the brain affect who we are and how we interact with each other. Prominent neuroscientist Swaab (Neurobiology/Amsterdam Univ.) is an ideal tour guide to these developments, taking readers chapter by chapter through a human life span of the brain.
A complex and often mysterious organ, the brain has been subject to study for centuries, and yet new discoveries are announced all the time due to increasingly sophisticated experimental methods. Using case studies, historical texts and experience gained from a career in brain research, the author treads some controversial ground in his conclusions. Importantly, he argues that free will may not be absolute and that the brain may be wired to predetermine key aspects of human behavior. For example: When we fall in love, is it a demonstration of free will or a chemical imperative beyond our conscious control? Swaab also suggests that factors like homosexuality and addiction—which have often been cited as individual choices—are instead hard-wired into our brains and therefore beyond our control. The physical changes in the brain's circuitry during adolescence or parenthood also suggest predetermination. Accompanying these revelations are technological advances that may be able to treat devastating brain disorders like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Deep-brain stimulation, neuroprostheses, gene therapy and stem cell transplants are some of the cutting-edge treatment options that could represent the future of brain health. The author advocates for an increased awareness of the social significance of brain research and writes passionately about its huge potential for a greater understanding of ourselves as human beings.
A cogent, provocative account of how 21st-century "neuroculture" has the potential to effect profound medical and social change.