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Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are [Anglais] [Relié]

Steven R. Quartz , Terrence J. Sejnowski

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Description de l'ouvrage

1 octobre 2002

This exciting, timely book combines cutting-edge findings in neuroscience with examples from history and recent headlines to offer new insights into who we are. Introducing the new science of cultural biology, born of advances in brain imaging, computer modeling, and genetics, Drs. Quartz and Sejnowski demystify the dynamic engagement between brain and world that makes us something far beyond the sum of our parts.

The authors show how our humanity unfolds in precise stages as brain and world engage on increasingly complex levels. Their discussion embraces shaping forces as ancient as climate change over millennia and events as recent as the terrorism and heroism of September 11 and offers intriguing answers to some of our most enduring questions, including why we live together, love, kill -- and sometimes lay down our lives for others.

The answers, it turns out, are surprising and paradoxical: many of the noblest aspects of human nature -- altruism, love, courage, and creativity -- are rooted in brain systems so ancient that we share them with insects, and these systems form the basis as well of some of our darkest destructive traits. The authors also overturn popular views of how brains develop. We're not the simple product of animal urges, "selfish" genes, or nature versus nurture. We survive by creating an ingenious web of ideas for making sense of our world -- a symbolic reality called culture. This we endow to later generations as our blueprint for survival.

Using compelling examples from history and contemporary life, the authors show how engagement with the world excites brain chemistry, which drives further engagement, which encourages the development of cultural complexity. They also share provocative ideas on how human development may be affected by changes in our culture. Their insights, grounded in science and far-reaching in their implications, are riveting reading for anyone interested in our past, present, and future.

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

“A superb book … a breath of fresh air.” (V. S. Ramachandran, M.D. , Ph.D., Professor and Director , Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego; adjunct Professor, Salk Institute, author of Phantoms in the Brain)

“An evocative solution to a classic problem: which is more important in shaping the human brain, nature or nurture? ” (Sandra Blakeslee, The New York Times)

“wide-ranging...linking cutting-edge neuroscience with social history and popular culture...postmodern culture and globalization....” (Publishers Weekly)

“Smart authors with a lot of hot stuff to report on.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“An entertaining and startling survey of what it means to be human.” (Discover magazine)

Biographie de l'auteur

Steven R. Quartz, Ph.D., is director of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology and an associate professor in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Computation and Neural Systems Program. He was a fellow of the Sloan Center for Theoretical Neurobiology at the Salk Institute and a recipient of the National Science Foundation's CAREER award, its most prestigious award for young faculty. He lives in Topanga, California.

Terrence J. Sejnowski, Ph.D., is regarded as the world's foremost theoretical brain scientist. His demonstration of NETtalk, a neural network that learned to read English words, helped spark the 1980s neural network revolution for which he received the IEEE Neural Network Pioneer Award in 2002. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University before studying neurobiology at Harvard University School of Medicine. He is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and directs the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute. At the University of California at San Diego he is a professor of biology, physics, and neurosciences and directs the Institute for Neural Computation. He has published more than two hundred scientific articles and has been featured in the national media. He lives in Solana Beach, California.

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There's something disturbing about holding a human brain in your hands. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.0 étoiles sur 5  20 commentaires
20 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A fascinating and readable discussion of neuroscience 12 février 2005
Par Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Explaining the field of cultural biology and the evidence from neuroscience that supports it, the authors have written a book that is accessible to all readers, regardless of their background. Every page gives a fascinating look at the causes/motivations behind human behavior and the authors argue convincingly for their thesis that this behavior has both environmental and genetic origins. They also include ample references for the reader who wants to pursue the subject in more detail.

The authors do not hesitate to embed their discussion of cultural biology in the historical backdrop in which it arose. As the authors report, some of the early research in the subject was met with harsh criticism, as for example the reaction against the book on sociobiology by E.O. Wilson. The vituperation leveled against Wilson by prominent intellectuals has no place in scientific debate and should not be engaged in under any circumstances.

The ability to image the brain and to model it with sophisticated computational tools has led to more knowledge about it in the last ten years than all of previous history, the authors argue. Brain imaging techniques such as MRI, PET, and optical topography have given experimental support for theories of the brain, giving much more valuable information that is needed to understand various diseases and abnormalities of the brain. Philosophical speculation and rhetoric have been eliminated in favor of careful scientific analysis and measurements, fortunately.

The book is packed full of interesting examples and surprises, and space does not permit a detailed review of these, but a few of them include: 1. The fact that the brain can detect and respond correctly to regular patterns in the environment without a person's conscious awareness of them. Experiments illustrating this are discussed in the book. 2. Neural network models of the basal ganglia indicate that it learns in essentially the same way as the brain of a bee. 3. The fact that the brain functions at different time scales, depending on the problem that it is presented with, from milliseconds all the way to minutes. This wide gap in processing time no doubt reflects evolutionary pressures that optimized the brain to prioritize some problems relative to others. 4. The suggestion that the anterior cingulate in humans may be the site of free will. 5. The suggestion that the "area 10" region in the front of the prefrontal cortex is the origin of our sense of self and our self-awareness. 6. The fact that half of the cortex is devoted to visualization. 7. The experimental evidence that indicates that environmental stimulation induces the maturing of brain cells in the hippocampus. 8. The fact that the brain is 90% of its final size at age five, and keeps growing until adolescence. 9. The rise of the "neural constructivist" view that the brain uses information from the world to build itself. Called "self-organization" by those who work in the field of dynamical systems, the constructivist point of view holds that the interaction with the world is a special type of learning that changes the brain and assists in building it. The authors refer to the brain/environment interaction as "constructive learning", and believe that the slow time scales needed for cortical development optimizes the influence of the world on the human brain, and thus make being human possible. The more time the brain has to develop, the likelihood of helpful inputs from the world to guide the construction of highly complex neural circuits increases. The result of this is a mind that can deal efficiently and accurately with the complexities of human existence. 10. The evidence that the development of the brain is non-uniform, but rather occurs hierarchically. The portions of the brain dealing with sensory information develop earlier than those that are responsible for the encoding of more abstract information. 11. The reason for suicidal behavior lies in the prefrontal cortex, which is also involved in mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. 12. The origin of drug addiction being in the ventral tegmental area of the basal ganglia. 13. The effects of serotonin and its manufacture in the brain by a group of neurons called the dorsal Raphe nucleus. Interestingly, despite being a small cluster of neurons, it is able to influence billions of neurons in the cerebral cortex. 14. The TD-Gammon learning machine and its ability to teach itself backgammon. The authors believe that the TD-Gammon machine exhibits real machine intelligence, and it is the opinion of this reviewer that they are quite correct in asserting this. 15. The origin of human personality as being from the anterior cingulate cortex, which uses previous experiences in order to construct the appropriate cognitive and emotional responses to novel situations. Attention to difficult problems is correlated with high activity in the anterior cingulate. 16. The fact that the male and female brains are the result of hormones, such as testosterone. The male brain becomes "masculinized" under the influence of testosterone, but only indirectly: the brain converts testosterone into estrogen, interestingly. The authors are careful to point out that testosterone and estrogen do not act at all places in the brain, and that sexual identity has its origin mostly in the hypothalamus. 17. The suggestion that it is the concurrent release of opiates and the oxytocin that produce the sensation of orgasm. 18. The origin of romantic love as being in the various chemical processes of the brain, and the experiments involving transgenic mice that supported this viewpoint. 19. The evidence from neuroscience that supports the "Aristotelian" conception of human nature, i.e. that family ties, friendship, and trust are more characteristic of humans than antisocial or individualistic behavior. Humans need to identify with something larger than their private existence, the authors argue. 20. The neuroscientific explanations for involvement in cults and for conformity to groups. 21. The authors' view of "constructive intelligence", and how it is at odds with the modern "IQ" version of intelligence.
25 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 interesting but too superficial 2 janvier 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur
I would have found this book far more satisfying if the authors had delved into their own research in more detail and didnt try to relate a few (fascinating) findings from brain science to every current topic in the news from terrorism to depression to consumerism. Less sound bites and "this is new!" and references to "pundits" and more analysis. Also, they present a glib dismissal of evolutionary psychology without delving into their real differences with its theorists. In trying to aim for
a popular audience they run the risk of alienating a
sophisticated readership.
56 internautes sur 72 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 bland and unconvincing 21 janvier 2003
Par Mike Garrison - Publié sur
I had really hoped to find a convincing argument for what has been called "the West Pole", the connectionist argument against evolutionary psychology. But, I'm afraid, this book isn't it.
Most of their arguments are strangely disconnected from their conclusions. The authors describe how neurons work, and make a good case for the fact that brain cells are flexible. But they really don't explain how they can therefore conclude that the brain is not extensively programmed by the genes.
After all, muscle cells in the arms are very similar to (and in fact replaceable by) muscle cells in the legs, but that doesn't mean evolution hasn't tailored the arms and the legs to be specialized. The fact that a person with no legs can compensate by using his arms does not mean arms and legs are defined by culture. And yet this is their argument for brains, as near as I can tell.
Perhaps this disconnect is because the science being discussed is reduced to very generalized and simplified results. Unfortunately, since the argument they are proposing is not really very different from the one they are opposing, it will be the details that make the difference. And yet, it is the details that the authors omit from this book.
Finally, when they stray from their own subject they are not very careful with the facts. For instance, John Glenn was not the first American in space, nor did he ever "ride atop a Saturn rocket." The authors claim both of those things to be true, however.
They also introduce a chapter with the example of the kids who attacked the jogger in Central Park. Oops -- DNA evidence has now (apparently) cleared those kids and the state of New York has apologized for their prosecution. [This last one is more understandable than the John Glenn error, because the new information was discovered after this book was published. But it is an example of their arguments resting on shaky, non-scientific ground.]
Another claim they make (that "parentese" is widespread and necessary for the development of language in children) is directly disputed by the linguistics studies of the evolutionary psychologist camp. And frankly, since the linguistics books present more details and more evidence (as well as referencing more and newer studies), I am forced to conclude that these authors were probably wrong about parentese, too.
The biggest problem with the book, though, is the underlying problem that none of their actual scientific findings (as presented without detail in this book) are actually incompatible with evolutionary psychology. Which makes it hard to understand why they claim to have "saved us from the tyranny of our genes."
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 It will change the way you think about your mind 19 novembre 2002
Par Armando Pena - Publié sur
This book has so far been the most insightful look into the evolution of the human mind I've ever encountered. These new discoveries will break the hold that "modern" theories have on you. You will find that survival of the fittest actually means survival of the most flexible. You will learn about how nature and nurture play a marvelous game crafting our mind by feeding back on each other. You will learn that components in your brain grow and adapt at different paces. And most important for me, I learned that the human mind is so flexible it can adapt throughout its lifetime beyond the years of childhood. This 'plasticity' of the brain can actually be stimulated by rich environments. You are more flexible than you think. I really recommend this book for parents with newborns. By exploring its pages you will get a peek into the wonder that your baby is experiencing. It might also help you along the way to find better way to teach your baby new and seemingly complex concepts.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great Read! 12 octobre 2002
Par Un client - Publié sur
This book was a real eye opener. I had read a bunch of evolutionary psychology books and thought they were on to something, then this book exposed all the gaps in that approach and showed how different things looked once you take the brain into account. I think it will revolutionize thinking about the mind and how it evolved. The authors also do a great job making their discussion relevant for issues today...
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