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Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain  By  cover art

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

By: Lisa Feldman Barrett
Narrated by: Lisa Feldman Barrett
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Publisher's Summary

From the author of How Emotions Are Made, a myth-busting primer on the brain in the tradition of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

Have you ever wondered why you have a brain? Let renowned neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett demystify that big gray blob between your ears. In seven short essays (plus a bite-sized story about how brains evolved), this slim, entertaining, and accessible collection reveals mind-expanding lessons from the front lines of neuroscience research. You'll learn where brains came from, how they're structured (and why it matters), and how yours works in tandem with other brains to create everything you experience. Along the way, you'll also learn to dismiss popular myths such as the idea of a "lizard brain" and the alleged battle between thoughts and emotions, or even between nature and nurture, to determine your behavior.

Sure to intrigue casual listeners and scientific veterans alike, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is full of surprises, humor, and important implications for human nature - a gift of a book that you will want to savor again and again.

©2020 Lisa Feldman Barrett (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Acclaimed neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett narrates her series of essays in this brief but sprightly introduction to the brain. In her erudite, enthusiastic voice…Barrett's goal is to give compelling and comprehensible information to a general audience. In this production she has definitely succeeded." - AudioFile Magazine, An Earphones Award Winner

“An excellent education in brain science…[Feldman Barrett] deftly employs metaphor and anecdote to deliver an insightful overview of her favorite subject…so short and sweet that most readers will continue to the 35-page appendix, in which the author delves more deeply, but with no less clarity, into topics ranging from teleology to the Myers-Briggs personality test to ‘Plato’s writings about the human psyche.’ Outstanding popular science.” - Kirkus, STARRED

"What about that 'three-pound blob between your ears'? In seven essays about the brain and a half-size one about its evolution…Barrett has crafted a well-written tribute to this wow-inducing organ." - Booklist 

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A very misleading book

This is one of the best example of a scientist who gave up her soul just to be popular and make a buck

1. on the actual science - to a general audience that doesnt have a background in this area, to claim specific functions are NOT related to any specific part of the brain is incrediblly misleading and certified malpractice , there are bunch more but I wont waste the time listing them all
2. all scientists know the danger of trying to shoehorn their field of expertise into large social economical issue and thus is recommended to tread very carefully - not this author, who blissfully touted her theory on poverty, human as a overrated species and etc social hot button issues with no real research or expertise to back that up

I am quite sure she is going to sell ton of her book targeting a specific segment of the population but it really besmirch her as a scientist

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misinformation

author constantly goes outside of her area of expertise, into things like economics and is just wrong.
in an attempt to simplify several of her essays actually contradict themselves.
it is especially troubling because not many people know much on the subject and are going to come away with a understanding of the brain that is completely incorrect.
I was very excited to read the book but am extremely disappointed.

13 people found this helpful

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slow reader & little bit of a Wokie

started w/ a lot of promise.. but soon grew tired of the languorous, plodding voice of the author.. sounds like she is obsessed with the listener absorbing every syllable.
Also, the more it went on, the more the author's far-left political views kept creeping in. Just for the record, Im on the left myself (just not woke!), im just not looking for politics to be interjected in a book about the brain. When she started portraying Greta Thunberg as having some unique sort of cognitive system.. that's when i tapped out.

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A summary of some summaries, but beautifully done

This is a short, succinct and efficient presentation of the most current thinking in Dr. Barrett’s large research community. This will contradict many of the theories about the brain, the body and personhood that we have heard for years and which a large number of writers and researchers are still espousing as we speak.

This book presents these positions in brief form, leaving much of the proof of their arguments to a downloadable appendix and to their outlay in her previous publications. If you aren’t already familiar with the author’s previous book, which was also a summary of her academic publications, then that is a fleshier place to start and this book will require extending the author a modicum of faith. That said, from my perspective it is justified and this is a powerful rundown of the biological underpinnings of our human experience, leaving much room for hope.

5 people found this helpful

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A Children's Book

Perfect book about the brain, if you are a child, or just like to be talked to as you were one.

I gave up when the author - which by the way seemingly is one of the last defenders of the blank slate doctrine in science - explained that poverty is bad and just the result of dumb politicians.

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Very interesting!

The author has a beautiful speaking voice and a way of making a complex subject interesting and easy to understand. I especially enjoyed the chapter on how a child’s brain develops. A must for all new parents!!

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent primer about new brain science

This is a well produced audiobook read by the author. The only issue I had is that to get the full experience one really needs to be able to look at the website at the same time, but this is a minor issue for a very worthwhile book.

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Excellent book. Must read.

Concepts are excellently organized and explained. Must read if you want to better understand the human brain.

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  • dp
  • 12-15-20

Treat Your Brain and Predict the results

Listen. Learn. Re-listen. Rewire and Predict. This is a book you have to listen to and I predict that you will listen more than once. Down with essentialism!

3 people found this helpful

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Lisa, thank you!

I can't even begin to explain how much Lisa's books and talks have influenced my predictions and behavior.

if you think about it, don't, just get this book.

2 people found this helpful

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  • J. Drew
  • 08-12-22

Fascinating short summary of the brain

This book about the brain includes a number of sessions about this subject that Lisa Barrett has presented and now written a book about. The book begins by talking about the popular idea of metaphors of the brain and exemplified in the chimp paradox whereby we think we have a lizard brain and then a cat brain and on top we have a human brain (all competing for one another - hence why your rational, outer brain says ‘just one more chocolate’ and your monkey brain has eaten the entire packet before you rational brain states ‘what the hell just happened’) but the book states this idea is wrong as we can see in many other animals that are mammals and have similar brain structure. Elephants have larger brains and owls and mice have smaller but they are all in context. The book then goes on to look at how the brain is structured and why it makes the decisions it makes.
- The book describes how the brain is a network of systems. It contains 128 billion brain neuron cells which communicate with different parts of the brain to create a whole single perception of everything we experience.
- The author explains how the neurons in the brain are constantly firing and behave in similar ways to planes in the sky constantly going between airports. Airports have many different functions, selling tickets and allowing planes to fly and take off and land as well as selling bad food. However there are also major hubs that can take on the vast majority of planes should one go down then this can disrupt the system. However the brain is complex and other systems will take over. Many different neurons will work in different ways to do the same task just does you might have different planes and pilots fly new from one place to another
- The third lesson is about how the interaction between the outside world and our brain forms in our skull and discusses how our brains evolved. For example horses come out into the world and within a few hours are able to walk but babies have to develop this skill over 12 months. If a baby's eyes are not exposed to the constant rays of light they will not develop and be able to focus on what they see and construct what they see in their brain. The same is true of many other experiences such as cuddling and skin to skin contact as well as holding a babies face close to yours so that they're at the right distance so they can see and mimic and learn
- The third chapter contains a fascinating description about how our brains begin to prune what they have seen and reduce connections in the brain - this is called pruning. One example of the babies are able to hear all sounds and then slowly the brain will filter out the one that it recognises as its own home language. It is also able to smell breastmilk which as soon as it's released from the mum's breast it will crawl and find its way towards just through smell. This is a chapter that is worth another read.
- It's also really important that babies get social contact and an experiment which occurred by chance was where babies were observed in Romanian orphanages, where they had many babies due to the government asking for more manpower and increases in the number of babies born in Romania. However many families couldn't afford these babies so they were placed in institutions and did not receive cuddles and hugs and skin to skin contact they were just merely fed. Many of these babies grew up damaged and stunted and with learning difficulties. It's an important example of the importance of social touch regarding our brain development. These examples of neglect have been seen in many other circumstances as well. And if babies are neglected they will grow up more prone to a range of medical problems such as diabetes and heart attacks as well as difficulties in forming social attachment with other people. Similar impact has been shown in experiments on attachment using monkees where they are where they were given a model that was made of metal would give milk and another pretend mother that was more like a teddy and these were the monkeys that were attracted to the most - rather than the pretend monkey who was shaped from metal but did offer food. Social interaction is really important from the moment we are born.
- The fourth lesson talks about how the brain is a prediction machine that predicts everything you're going to do next. The brain consists of neurochemicals and swirling electrical activity that makes sense of everything around it and gives it meaning. However it is also determined by memory and what it is already perceived an experienced to help it make sense of how the brain will wire and fire together to help us with the acts of living our life and being who we are and what we perceive and make sense - whether it be taste, vision, hearing, touch and smell.
- The fifth lesson talks about how our brains are social brains and that they are changed and develop through the interactions with others. Being in a relationship that can help you to live a longer life than one where you are alone.
- The brain is always looking for ways of saving energy and the metabolic cost that is required to run it. The average energy required to run a brain is equal to the amount that you might need to light a lightbulb as it is an incredibly efficient machine. However it is really important and there are lots of benefits to having others in your life to help you and support you and the brain needs other brains to develop and support it. People who are lonely will often die earlier and if they get an illness have less of a chance of recovery as those who are in relationships or have a close friend and even a pet. Even the words that people use can help to ensure support brains, or make us angry. When we are given a compliment we can feel good but when someone is threatening us we can also feel rage and anger. Words can impact our hormones and emotions. Words can change the physiology of how we feel by changing the hormones that control our heart rate and sending all sorts of hormones through the body to change how we feel and behave. Words are powerful.
- Lesson six is about how we evolved with many different types and kinds of mind and not just one. Our culture and society and the people we surround us will shape our brains and how brains evolve and our structure can be dependent on the culture and people that surround us. This can include the culture, religion and beliefs that make up different countries.
- There are many types of mind variation. For example a mind may be autistic or schizophrenia but also in less extreme cases minds can produce some people to be thoughtful and others to be more caring and empathetic what we need to do is embrace all these different kinds of minds because they are what helps humans to continue to develop a wide rang of skills on this planet. Having a wide range of minds means we can deal with a wide range of problems.
- Even though people around us will have different types of mind it's also important to be aware that we can change our own mind. This might be temporary either through drinking lots of coffee or and taking vitamins to stay up all night to revise for something or when we drink and become more sociable and find other people more attractive - we have altered the state of our own mind. We can also do this on longer terms for example going to a new country and exploring different cultures as well as learning something new which again changes the structure and way your mind behaves.
- Lesson seven is about how our brains create reality. The wavelength of light that bounces off something that we see and absorbs certain amounts of wavelengths that are then sent to our eyes and then evolve in our brain to create our perception of colour - this is created in the mind. The whole world is created as an illusion in our brains but this helps us to make sense of everything around us. Reality is an illusion created by our brains.
- We live in a world where we give meaning to pieces of paper and little bits of metal that we call money. It's all made up but we give it meaning and reality and we all get together to help us buy things and create things and be paid. Made up illusions we create and they then become real.
- With our brains being a prediction making machine we perceive wine that is more expensive is better than wine that is cheaper or real fair trade coffee tastes better than coffee that comes out of plain paper with no markings. We create this perception that changes how we feel towards something even though it is all made up. We create this reality through the five senses as described in this book.
- A short fascinating book about how our brains work - I really enjoyed reading it.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-11-22

Great Book

Full of knowledge and wisfom. Scientific researches and common sense too. Enjoyed the voice and the reading style as wrll. Thank you for such a useful book, everybody should read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • D. J. Wilkinson
  • 05-01-22

But I thought that…

This is a really useful and thought provoking book that dispels many of the old ideas about how our brains work and should be read by every trainer and consultant out there that relies anything to do with neurology.

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  • Seagull
  • 04-14-21

Compelling, informative, clear and very well read

This is an excellent book to get a clear, concise and fascinating insight into the latest thinking on how the brain functions and the amazing feats it's capable of. It's a perfect book for those of us who are not experts, academics or neuroscientists (although I'm sure it'd appeal to them to) but nevertheless want current insights into brain research. I can imagine listening to these 'lessons' several times over. It's extremely well read by the author who has very pleasant and clear reading voice that keeps your attention and never jars or distracts. I hope she will produce more books in this format. I highly recommend this. I learned a lot and it has excited my imagination and deepened my curiosity: all of which feel good in my brain - splendid work!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-16-20

An overview not an extra insight

I chose this hoping to increase and challenge my existing understanding of the brain. I found that it didn't diverge greatly from my undergrad/working knowledge other than one specific main point. I was disappointed that the book didnt open up more challenging concepts and real world applications.

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  • Melanie Lowndes
  • 04-05-22

A very interesting book.

There were really interesting ideas and concepts in this book, fo that I see things (myself and the world) differently after reading it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • TJohnson
  • 12-31-21

If interested in the topic, this is a great start!

Complex concepts explained in simple and plain English!

Might be repetitive if you are beyond it up to an advanced level in this matter.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-18-21

Wowser... what a brilliant book!

I heard of the author after an interview with Tom Swarbrick on LBC - STUNNING work, absolutely brilliant, endlessly fascinating, supremely helpful!

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  • Matthew Dashper-Hughes
  • 09-11-21

A must read neuroscience primer

This book ought to be required reading for everyone who deals with other human beings. In other words: everyone.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tony
  • 08-14-21

thought provoked

a very gentle but profound peek at humans and what goes on under the hat.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-24-21

Exceptional with actionable insights

Lisa has done an amazing job taking such a complex topic and breaking this down into an easy to understand and apply narrative. The intersection of deep science and with the social context is well crafted and this makes the science outcomes relevant and actionable in our lives. I have found myself unconsciously referencing the lessons from this book to other topics and texts. I have recommended the book to my family and friends. Great work Lisa!

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  • Steven Di Pietro
  • 02-12-21

Brilliant. I put it On the shelf with God delusion

Brilliant book. It’s rare to find a book that makes you challenge your most dearly held beliefs. The God delusion was one, Sam Harris and his discussion about free will is another, and this book for its dismantling of my fairytale. I love it when an author talks to their own book, and Lisa handles it with aplomb.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-10-21

Transformed a huge deal of complexity so simply.

Author imprinted her understanding of the Brain straight to the reader's brain with a genius execution of flow.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Grant Dewar
  • 04-28-21

Accessible wisdom

Anyone can make complex information difficult to understand. Lisa Feldman Barrett has a briiliant way of making the complexity of neuroscience understandable and accessible. She has turned this knowledge into wisdom in 7 1/2 lessons.