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Monday, April 27, 2015

Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience

Oh, you know me and my love of psychology. I couldn't help myself when I read about Michael S. Gazzaniga's release of his (what I'm terming) neuro-memoir, Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience. Because I'm a nerd that way. 

Dr. Gazzaniga, the father of cognitive neuroscience, tells his tale in this book. In 1960's, he begins his work on split-brain patients to figure out what happens when the two sides of the brain aren't directly connected. His findings, and his subsequent researched, changed how we understand the brain works. He enumerates his esteemed colleagues, and makes no bones about his conservative leanings and his friendship with William S. Buckley, Jr. He takes us through his journey as a scientist, and while doing this makes us all a little bit smarter and a little more human.

This book made me cry with happiness. It made me miss the research I was doing on cognition like nobody's business, and I had to take a step back and go talk to my mentor and ask to be put back on a project. Gazzaniga has a warm, loving way of storytelling, and he reminded me of why I got into what I'm doing in the first place. It's the desire to understand that which is almost impossible to understand, and making the understanding of how the brain works accessible to the masses. His style of writing is so colloquial and accessible for the general masses, and it heightens his charm to such a large degree that I can't wait to own this book in paperback and revisit it.

Gazzaniga enumerates his relationships with such luminaries in his field and out such as Skinner and Buckley, and his name dropping is so honest that it was lovely and heartfelt. He truly respects so many in his field, even those who came after his. This is all before we even get to his research, which is fascinating in and of itself. Split brain research was an opening to the field that we now understand as cognitive neuroscience, a field that I happen to love and use research from regularly. It's an understanding of the neural processes behind our thought processes, and while many would argue that it's not an exact science, anyone making strides in understanding cognition is worthy of entertaining in my book. Understanding what how our brains work -- from originally stating that our full brain is actually two distinct brains combined into one or later on discovering that neural functioning is far more complicated and intricate than such a simple explanation as two brains in one -- remains groundbreaking in the field.

Gazzaniga's memoir will remain on my shelf to serve as a reference piece when I need a refresher of brain functioning. Honestly, I will probably put my teeny tiny brain model right next to it in my future office as a reminder of the lovely, complicated world of human functioning that is, no pun intended, consistently mind blowing to me. 

For purchase below. 

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