PROGRAMS OF THE BRAIN by J. Z. Young
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PROGRAMS OF THE BRAIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Don't be misled by the title. This excellent book on the brain does not make simplistic analogies of brain with computer. Rather, Young uses the word ""program"" to describe a plan for action. The human brain is an organized structure that is selective, constantly choosing among alternatives those activities deemed appropriate to perpetuating the life of the individual. Some programs are innate; others are acquired through learning. Ultimately the various scanning, processing, weighing, and evaluating functions are integrated so that the brain can be considered to function as a whole. Young's survey of contemporary neuroscientific research enables him to use many examples of brain systems--in perception, memory, thinking, emotion--and to use the analogy of language to describe the brain's structural-functional organization. Young himself has contributed fundamental insights in his study of nerve-signaling and information-processing in the octopus. Among his conclusions are that it is folly to try to separate out the faculties of reason and emotion and action so dear to psychologists and philosophers a century ago. Pleasure, pain, reward, anticipation, the search for origins, the need to believe, and the tendency to anthropomorphize--all may be fundamentally rooted in the organization of the human brain. His concluding chapter is an argument for applying some of the newer discoveries about the brain to education, to dealing with mental illness, or, more fundamentally, toward understanding why human beings are both given to altruism and consistently prepared to quarrel. A fine statement and review, occasionally overemphatic, but always clear as to fact vs. opinion, the book can serve as a sophisticated primer for the layman as well as a source of debate and discussion among colleagues.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press