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Great Myths of the Brain


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction 1

1 Defunct Myths 15

#1 Thought Resides in the Heart 15

#2 The Brain Pumps Animal Spirits Round the Body 18

#3 Brain Cells Join Together Forming a Huge Nerve Net 21

#4 Mental Function Resides in the Brain's Hollows 22

2 Myth-Based Brain Practices 25

#5 Drilling a Hole in the Skull Releases Evil Spirits 25

#6 Personality Can Be Read in the Bumps on the Skull 28

#7 Mental Illness Can Be Cured by Disconnecting the Frontal Lobes 30

3 Mythical Case Studies 37

#8 Brain Injury Turned Neuroscience's Most Famous Case into an Impulsive Brute 37

#9 The Faculty of Language Production Is Distributed Through the Brain 40

#10 Memory Is Distributed Throughout the Entire Cortex 45

4 The Immortal Myths 51

#11 We Only Use Ten Percent of Our Brains 51

#12 Right-Brained People Are More Creative 55

#13 The Female Brain Is More Balanced (and Other Gender-Based Brain Myths) 65

#14 Adults Can't Grow New Brain Cells 74

#15 There's a God Spot in the Brain (and Other Lesser-Spotted Myths) 80

#16 Pregnant Women Lose Their Minds 87

#17 We All Need Eight Hours of Continuous Sleep (and Other Dozy Sleep Myths) 92

#18 The Brain Is a Computer 101

#19 The Mind Can Exist Outside of the Brain 106

#20 Neuroscience Is Transforming Human Self-Understanding 115

5 Myths about the Physical Structure of the Brain 135

#21 The Brain Is Well Designed 135

#22 The Bigger the Brain, the Better 140

#23 You Have a Grandmother Cell 146

#24 Glial Cells Are Little More Than Brain Glue 149

#25 Mirror Neurons Make Us Human (and Broken Mirror Neurons Cause Autism) 154

#26 The Disembodied Brain 160

6 Technology and Food Myths 177

#27 Brain Scans Can Read Your Mind 177

#28 Neurofeedback Will Bring You Bliss and Enlightenment 192

#29 Brain Training Will Make You Smart 201

#30 Brain Food Will Make You Even Smarter 209

#31 Google Will Make You Stupid, Mad, or Both 217

7 Brain Myths Concerning Perception and Action 235

#32 The Brain Receives Information from Five Separate Senses 235

#33 The Brain Perceives the World As It Is 242

#34 The Brain's Representation of the Body Is Accurate and Stable 249

8 Myths about Brain Disorder and Illness 258

#35 Brain Injury and Concussion Myths 258

#36 Amnesia Myths 265

#37 Coma Myths 273

#38 Epilepsy Myths 280

#39 Autism Myths 286

#40 Dementia Myths 294

#41 The Chemical Imbalance Myth of Mental Illness 300

Afterword 316

Index 318

About the Author

Christian Jarrett has a PhD in Cognitive Neurosciencefrom the University of Manchester. He is editor of the BritishPsychological Society s Research Digest; author of theBrain Watch blog for WIRED; a blogger for Psychology Today;and columnist for 99U, the New York-based creativity think tank.Dr. Jarrett is also the author of The Rough Guide toPsychology (2011) and editor of 30 Second Psychology (IconBooks)


"THESE days you can't go to a children's birthday party withoutone of the adults making a knowing comment about the excited scampsbeing "high on sugar". In fact, there's no evidence that sugarmakes children hyperactive. But the remark illustrates the wayfalse beliefs about how our brains work permeate most aspects oflife as does the burgeoning of buzzwords likeneuromarketing or neuroleadership. Such "neurobollocks", to borrowthe title of a popular scienceblog, is ably and entertainingly demolished by ChristianJarrett in Great Myths of the Brain . As a journalist in thisfield, I thought I would know most of these myths, but there wasplenty here that was new and interesting to me." New Scientist,December 2014 As you can tell from the length of this review, there isa lot to be learnt from this book. I certainly learnt a few thingseven if I wasn t always taken in by some of the myths outthere. The brain is a remarkable organ and clearing away the mythsto see what is really there will show its true strengths and if youuse in your fiction, make for better up-to-date stories. Read,digest, learn and dispel those myths. ( SFCrowsnest.org.uk , 1 November 2014) Jarrett is a man with substantial knowledge of the brain. Great Myths has been hailed by Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science and Bad Pharma and scourge of sloppystatisticians and dodgy pharmaceutical marketers) as amasterful catalogue of neurobollocks . Professor David GMyers calls it a tour de force of critical thinking from one of the world s great communicators . ( The Listener , November 2014) Christian Jarrett s Great Myths Of The Brain is the sort of book that every amateur brain enthusiast should haveon his or her shelf. The book is an effort to assemble all thecommon and not-so-common myths about the brain, past and present,and explain why they re all wrong using genuineneuroscience. BBC Focus, January 2015

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