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Publisher's Summary

Consciousness is our gateway to experience: it enables us to recognize Van Gogh’s starry skies, be enraptured by Beethoven’s Fifth, and stand in awe of a snowcapped mountain. Yet consciousness is subjective, personal, and famously difficult to examine: philosophers have for centuries declared this mental entity so mysterious as to be impenetrable to science.

In The Ravenous Brain, neuroscientist Daniel Bor departs sharply from this historical view, and builds on the latest research to propose a new model for how consciousness works. Bor argues that this brain-based faculty evolved as an accelerated knowledge gathering tool. Consciousness is effectively an idea factory - that choice mental space dedicated to innovation, a key component of which is the discovery of deep structures within the contents of our awareness. This model explains our brains’ ravenous appetite for information - and in particular, its constant search for patterns. Why, for instance, after all our physical needs have been met, do we recreationally solve crossword or Sudoku puzzles? Such behavior may appear biologically wasteful, but, according to Bor, this search for structure can yield immense evolutionary benefits - it led our ancestors to discover fire and farming, pushed modern society to forge ahead in science and technology, and guides each one of us to understand and control the world around us.

But the sheer innovative power of human consciousness carries with it the heavy cost of mental fragility. Bor discusses the medical implications of his theory of consciousness, and what it means for the origins and treatment of psychiatric ailments, including attention-deficit disorder, schizophrenia, manic depression, and autism. All mental illnesses, he argues, can be reformulated as disorders of consciousness - a perspective that opens up new avenues of treatment for alleviating mental suffering.

A controversial view of consciousness, The Ravenous Brain links cognition to creativity in an ingenious solution to one of science’s biggest mysteries.

©2012 Daniel Bor (P)2012 Gildan Media LLC

Critic Reviews

“[A] lively look at what research is revealing about consciousness and a view of some of the ethical implications of recent findings about the brain’s ‘ravenous appetite for wisdom.’ . . . Bor keeps general listeners in mind, making challenging subject matter entertaining by peppering his narrative with personal anecdotes, imaginative thought experiments and probing research studies. . . . An enthusiastic report from the front lines of cognitive science designed to pique the interest of nonscientists.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 11-18-12

Effectively demystifies consciousness

The meaning of consciousness is no longer completely inaccessible to me after reading this book. It's starting to make sense to me. The author does an excellent job of reviewing what is only recently becoming known about the field. He explains difficult concepts wonderfully and uses some of the best analogies I've heard.

The author looks at the relevant philosophy, evolution psychology and the recent neuroscience understandings to go a long way with explaining what is consciousness. He indirectly answers two question, 1) what is it about humans that make us different and 2) will computers ever think.

I've listened to about five or so books and even watched a Great Course lecture on this topic and this book is the first one that went beyond just claiming that the meaning of consciousness is unknowable, and after having read this book, I feel that I'm getting closer to its understanding. I enjoyed the other books, but this one makes me believe that people way smarter than me are getting close to answering those two questions and discovering the real nature of consciousness. .

You know you have a good narrator when you recognize his voice from another book you've read and loved. Mr. Dixon also read "The Beginning of Infinity" and my mind would go back to some passages in that book which were covering similar material. Nicely narrated.


14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Union, NJ, United States
  • 10-05-12

Fascinating/compelling

Have you listened to any of Walter Dixon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Dixon's fabulous. Perfect cadence, engaging speaking style.

Any additional comments?

This is an intriguing journey into the roots of human consciousness, drawing on a fascinating, subtle and yet accessible array of brain-related research and creative examples. A pleasure from start to finish.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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A Very Interesting...

exploration of the physiological elements of the deepest mystery of our existence: consciousness. This book becomes increasing interesting after reading such authors as V. Ramachandran (The Tell-Tale Brain), Jeffery Schwarz (The Mind And The Brain) and Patricia Churchland (Touching A Nerve), all of which are available on Audible as well, and which I can also highly recommend. Bor has studied deeply in philosophy and neurology and thus can bring both perspectives to this very complicated but fascinating investigation of ourselves.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Bloated

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Contains many nuggets of interesting information gathered from psychology research and experiments that support Bor's position that the mind and the brain are largely identical. This data would be more useful to students of the mind if it were trimmed of the excessively folksy verbiage that one has to sift through to mine these nuggets. I simply lost patience and gave up a little over half way through the book.

Did Walter Dixon do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

The narration adds to the folksiness by using the breathless style characteristic of network news magazines such as 60 Minutes. It's difficult for me to listen to even one hour of this style, let alone to the over 11 hours of it in this book.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful