The best books on neuroscience and the mind

Thomas R. Verny Author Of The Embodied Mind: Understanding the Mysteries of Cellular Memory, Consciousness, and Our Bodies
By Thomas R. Verny

The Books I Picked & Why

The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are

By Daniel J. Siegel

Book cover of The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are

Why this book?

I am a great admirer of Dr. Siegel who is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. This is a terrific book in which Siegel explores the role of interpersonal relationships in forging key connections in the brain. As he says, “Human connections shape neural connections, and each contributes to mind. Relationships and your personal linkages together shape the mind. It is more than the sum of its parts; this is the essence of emergence.” His description of brain architecture is excellent

Siegel’s emphasis on relationships is important and I fully agree with it. His take on the mind is interesting. He says, “The mind is a process that emerges from the distributed nervous system extended throughout the entire body and also from the communication patterns that occur within relationships.” I echo those sentiments in The Embodied Mind when I say that the mind is more than the brain. Where I differ from Siegel is in suggesting that at the present the most scientifically supported evidence points to the mind as being a hybrid operating reversibly between quantum and classical realms.


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Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind

By Andy Clark

Book cover of Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind

Why this book?

Andy Clark is a Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at the University of Sussex. He asks as I and many others have, how does mere matter give rise to non-material mental states, including consciousness? He explores with brilliant wit and wisdom the intersecting domains of neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, and robotics. We are both synergizers, gathering ideas from leading scientists and thinkers arriving at new theories and explanations of natural phenomena based on those studies.

We explore the wiring and plumbing of the brain; we are spelunkers of cognition, brain, and mind. While much of Clark’s discussion veers towards artificial intelligence and robotics, my interest lies in understanding the functioning of cells, both neuronal and corporeal.


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The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles

By Bruce H. Lipton

Book cover of The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles

Why this book?

Bruce Lipton is an American developmental biologist who in The Biology of Belief describes the mechanisms by which cells receive and process information. He shows that genes and DNA do not control our biology; instead, DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages emanating from our positive and negative thoughts. We have more agency and authority over our life experience than we ever realized. I am in total agreement with these ideas and reflect upon them in The Embodied Mind.

I very much like Lipton’s spiritual approach to cell biology which is missing in most scientific publications.


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The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

By Norman Doidge

Book cover of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

Why this book?

Norman Doidge is a Canadian psychiatrist and award-winning science writer, currently on the Faculty of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Research Faculty at Columbia University. In this book, he provides a fascinating synopsis of the current revolution in neuroscience with an emphasis on neuroplasticity. Essentially, Doidge cites many case histories illustrating the power of positive thinking in healing neurological diseases.

Doidge’s focus as the seat of the problem is always the brain. His book is highly readable and holds out hope for many people with neurological impairments.


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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

By Robert M. Sapolsky

Book cover of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

Why this book?

I like it because it is written almost jargon-free and it’s a lot of fun, as the title indicates. As Sapolsky explains, when we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal's does. However, animals stop experiencing stress when the environmental emergency passes,  while we humans can worry for long times and thus produces the same physiological responses which, if chronic, can take a toll on our bodies and, if prolonged, can make us sick. 


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