As our minds develop we create a personalized inner world based on our experiences. But during periods of intense emotion, such as anger, fear or euphoria, we can literally lose our mind, returning to the mental state we experienced as infants. This book intends to answer how our unique sense of self is created.
As our knowledge of the brain grows beyond the wildest expectations, the time is ripe to explore pleasure in terms of workings of the mind. Pleasure is the most marvellous sensation, the most prized state, but also, properly understood, the most basic type of consciousness. Understanding pleasure suggests new ways of understanding consciousness itself - by looking at the neurological characte of our most primitive emotions. In this volume, Susan Greenfield explains various mysteries: for example how different experiences give rise to similar sensations in the mind - such as via sport, raves, or orgasm; the workings of recreational drugs; and the neurological character of pleasure - which reveals a complex, close relationship to feelings of fear (for example, the appeal of the rollercoaster). .
Susan Greenfield is a leading neuroscientist based at the Laboratory of Pharmacology, Oxford. In 1994 she was the first woman to give the annual Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. She is the presenter for BBC2's Brain Story.
This title is published as part of "Penguins for Science Week 2002".
Greenfield takes on some of the most difficult questions of philosophy and neuroscience in her latest book, in particular the fundamental issue of what is consciousness. The problem with consciousness is the more you try to think about it, the more you feel you have lost touch with it, but this book deftly and helpfully sets out the main problems. Consciousness has partly remained an elusive concept for so long because you almost feel you have to try and catch yourself out by lunging at it unexpectedly to finally capture it, but Greenfield amasses a huge array of fascinating data from all branches of contemporary science to provide a useful signpost on how to solve the problem. While she advances her own personal theories - that consciousness has something to do with the extensiveness of the associations in memory and experience that any sensation prompts - she does not try to ram her own ideas down your throat, but instead presents enough useful information to help you make your own mind up. An unexpected bonus of the book is it devotes an extensive amount of analysis to the problem of pleasure, and comes up with some intriguing answers to why happiness will always be only temporary. However the book is a serious one, and in its quest for precision and accuracy does sacrifice some readability. It would not be suitable for anyone who was not already interested in the brain and had no prior background knowledge on the subject. But if you seriously want to understand yourself, or at least your brain, better, this is essential reading. Review by RAJ PERSAUD (Kirkus UK)
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