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Publisher's Summary

When are we responsible for our own actions, and when are we in the grip of biological forces beyond our control? What determines who we fall in love with? The intensity of our spiritual lives? The degree of our aggressive impulses?

These questions fall into the scientific province of behavioral biology, the field that explores interactions between the brain, mind, body, and environment that have a surprising influence on how we behave. In short, how our brains make us the individuals we are.

In this series of 24 fascinating lectures by a prominent neurobiologist, zoologist, and MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant recipient, you'll investigate how the human brain is sculpted by evolution, constrained or freed by genes, shaped by early experience, modulated by hormones, and otherwise influenced to produce a wide range of behaviors, some of them abnormal. And you'll learn how little can be explained by thinking about any of these factors alone, because some combination of influences is almost always at work.

Professor Sapolsky includes a provocative exploration of the implications of our emerging understanding of the origins of individual differences, considering such questions as: How much do these insights threaten our own sense of self and individuality? Where do we draw the line between the essence of the person and the biological abnormalities? What counts as being ill? Who is biologically impaired, and who is just different? As more and more subtle abnormalities of neurobiology are understood, how much should we worry about the temptation to label people as "abnormal"? And what happens when we each have a few of these labels?

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2005 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2005 The Great Courses

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Perfect Follow Up

for the Great Courses lectures Philosophy Of Mind and The Secrets Of Perception. This lecture series by Robert Sapolsky really ties together the ideas presented in these two other courses by uniting the physiology of the brain and the mysteries of individuality and consciousness. It is wonderfully rich in scientific detail and yet is presented with dynamic metaphor and example so as to make it readily accessible to the layman. The one bad rating for this book is unfair, in that it faults the series for not including the lecture notes and guides. For one, this is clearly stated in the Audio description, and for another, anyone who wants to pay attention to this series will get along just fine without the guides. (Many of the references can be looked up on the internet on the fly, anyway.) This series of lectures will prepare one for the works of Ramachandran, Gazzaniga and Seung, all of which I heartily endorse for further, more in-depth neurological texts.

30 of 32 people found this review helpful

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Important & beautifully conveyed

Sapolsky's stated approach of mixing "buckets" of knowledge - genetics, neurobiology, anthropology, ethology, etc. - works beautifully to create non-simplistic explanations of human behavior and to counter all sorts of popular science attempts to oversimplify why we act the we do and why we turn out the way we do.

The bottom line is that "it is both nurture and nature!" - but with sophistication and erudition about the exact mechanisms that are at play, and attention to the limits of how nurture can modify nature, and to the limits of nature's ability to fully determine anything. Perhaps it is more correct to say that, ultimately, Sapolsky really undoes the nature/nurture dichotomy altogether, because nature is never "un-nurtured", so it only takes expression in particular environments -- hormonal, environmental, social, etc. At the same time, there is always a biological substrate there that "nurture" has to work with. This is basic at one level, but Sapolsky explains beautifully the details of how this happens at different levels of brain chemistry and, as important, how we know this.

He does an especially good job of explaining the basics of neurons, neurochemistry, and brain anatomy -- not so easy without a blackboard, but he manages!

For me this course hit the sweet spot in terms of avoiding politicization of issues and letting the science and specific experiments speak, however "right" or "left" friendly the results.

It seems like I should try to come up with some criticisms so here goes: Since Sapolsky cites by name many important scientists, it seems he could have given Carol Gilligan her due for challenging the male-oriented Kohlberg theory of human development; which, incidentally still seemed to color his version of how kids mature (Kohlberg, not Gilligan). Also, some of his riffs on child-rearing talked as if punishment of children is a given feature of all childrearing, which in Sweden where I live it is not. No one in Sweden would recognize the form of childrearing with rewards and punishments he seemed to take for granted.

This course is not a lazy-day kind of listen. I listened while on long walks, and let's just say I didn't manage to notice much of the nature around me while listening. The course is intense, but fabulous!

Audible -- is there a way one could get the slides that go along with these lectures? They aren't 100 % necessary to following along, but would be nice to have.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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The best story teller on biology and life, ever!

I first attended Prof. Sapolsky's seminar on "Aging" in Santa Rosa California, almost 20 years ago. I was so fascinated by his story telling that I spent the next 20 years trying to learn as much as I could on neuroscience and human behavior, even though it's not related to my profession. I read all his books, and I enjoyed all his audio lectures. This is what a great teacher can do, inspiring audience to explore a new subject with passion and interest. This audio book, "Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality", is by far the best one, synthesizing nuggets of knowledge from his many other lectures, beautifully.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Ian
  • Weymouth, MA, USA
  • 12-20-16

Very interesting course but mistitled

The course focuses on aggression and not individuality. The course is very interesting, though, and we'll worth the time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A good topic

I am expert in the field, and I always get books and lectures to review my knowledge and find different prospects and ways to look at facts and hypotheses. The thing I liked about this series is the analogues given. However, the evolution explanations are totally weak. It was better if they were removed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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content

It shared some really interesting things about brains and behavioral science. I thought there would be more and that it might reveal something mind blowing at some point but it didn't. Nevertheless it was enjoyable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This guy is great

I love listening to Dr Sapolski. he's entertaining and educational. I listened to his talk on stress and its short and long term effects on the body before this. probably going to listen to both again sometime this year. He makes the information simple to digest, but I want to make sure I didn't miss anything important.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Incredible.

I have no words to describe this book. I will probably end up listening this book again at least 5 times. What an amazing resource for anyone who want to know how we work. And the author/narrator... WOW!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

Robert Sapolsky is engaging, perhaps my favorite professor in the Great Courses series (of which I own many titles). I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant!

Where does Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Does this lecturer even breathe? He is funny, brilliant and chock full of info. Great understanding and did I mention brilliant?!?

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Ben
  • 03-20-15

very neuroscience

narrator talks fast and can be difficult to keep up with at times.
very interesting listen though.
a pre existing knowledge of neuroscience is essential.
very detailed and flows well.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Santiago
  • 10-04-16

Fascinating topic

Amazing course on tracing human behavior back through the insights of neurology, endocrinology, genetics and evolution.
A few lectures at the end apply this scheme to violent behavior. Here I missed some deeper connections from violent tendencies to other maybe not so destructive behaviors, i.e. going one level up towards psychology, but hey, the scope is already massive, and all the appropriate caveats were in place.
Recommended!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon
  • 04-30-15

Great - but only if you don't get it from Audible

What did you like best about Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition? What did you like least?

In this lecture course Sapolsky uses lots of diagrams, charts, graphs, etc.

These are not included if one purchases this course through Audible, and the lectures do not work half as well without access to these diagrams (because repeated reference is made to them).

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-21-17

really interesting

really interesting - lots of stuff I didn't know, interesting philosophical questions re the mind

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  • colin
  • 06-02-15

superb

With clarity, great insight and humour, some groundbreaking and powerful ideas are communicated. I will be listening to the whole series again

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-12-17

Sapolsky.<br />best bio teacher ever

loved it totally changed my core beliefs and understanding of the animal and human environments.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-22-17

Thoroughly enjoyed this lecture.

Vivid explanation, amazing insight. Great teacher! I can't wait to ponder this new information with friends.

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  • saeed Kohan
  • 03-22-17

Absolutely fascinating!

What made the experience of listening to Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition the most enjoyable?

I have enjoyed this book immensely! have listened to it twice already!
As a clinician and one who deals with brain pathology and anatomy in gross form on daily basis, exploring this aspect of human brain has made my day to day work even more interesting.
Prof. Sapolsky is an absolute star in his field and a gift to humanity when it comes to teaching!
His lectures are so well connected and flow through with robust background knowledge that are a joy to listen to.
Enjoyed every sentence!

What did you like best about this story?

So well structured and presentation of the supporting literature, connecting biology and behaviour.

Any additional comments?

thoroughly recommended to those who want to understand the human brain and behaviour.

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  • Dean
  • 03-17-17

Great book overall.

I would have liked less about the physical mechanisms by which the brain operates (the first 14 chapters) and more about how they manifest in behaviours (the last 10 chapters).

Overall, very informative, entertainingly presented and a couple of big light bulb moments even for someone who has read quite a few books on the subject.