A very different book today, and very unusual for my blog. I still enjoyed it a lot!
A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist by Michael Tranter PhD released March 11 in the Popular Science/ Brain genre.
A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist answers some of the most asked questions about the brain, making the science fun and accessible to everyone. Inside, you will journey through some of the most interesting and strange things that our brain does every single day.
Have you always wanted to know just what a memory actually is, or why we dream? What is our consciousness? Why do some people seem to ‘click’ with others? And can our brain really multi-task?
Have you ever been standing at the top of a tall building or cliff edge and had a sudden but brief urge to jump? You have no real thought of actually doing it, and you are not depressed, suicidal, or otherwise distressed, but that urge appears nonetheless. As it turns out, neuroscience has a name for such an occurrence, high places phenomenon, sometimes termed the call to the void, and it is actually very normal and common. There are also reports of impulses to jump in front of a train, stick a hand in a fire, or turn a steering wheel into traffic. Thankfully, the person generally doesn’t follow through, and although most accounts of this phenomenon are anecdotal, there is one team of scientists in Florida, USA, who decided to take another look. The research team asked 431 students about such episodes in their personal lives, and a surprising 55% acknowledged that they have experienced them at some stage in their lives.
Science has revealed to us that high place phenomenon is possibly the result of a split-second delay between two opposing brain signals. One signal is based on our survival instinct that notices danger and tells us that we should avoid it, such as falling from a great height, or a train hitting us in the face. Another signal coming from our more logical brain tells us that we are relatively safe where we are, and there is no real threat to our survival. The resulting signals are interpreted by our brain – now somewhat confused, for it to relay this rather bizarre message and we experience the high place phenomenon. So, if you ever have a sudden impulse to jump off the top of Mount Everest, just remember that it is normal, but please don’t do it anyway.
I enjoyed it. No surprises about the plot. I don’t see how there could be any with that title. But there is something to say about the book’s structure and how it’s written.
There’s a short introduction, something that lays down what is what. It’s kind of technical, but not too much that makes you put the book down, and it’s quick.
The middle section is made of actual questions. I’m sure he gets way more questions than what’s in the book, but I like the choice. The topics are not too quirky, and they revolve around everyday things- dreams, brain freeze, addiction, bilingualism, for example.
The tone is not overly funny or comical, and it shouldn’t be. I mean, it’s science, and it has to have some dignity after all. But it’s friendly and simple enough that even someone like me can easily follow up the narration.
The answers/topics don’t stop at their exact explanation, so that we can quickly move one to another. The main question/topic opens to multiple other connected sub-questions/topics, so you have a bigger picture.
The last part, where we’re going, is fascinating.
To sum it up, the book is knowledgeable but not bogged down by medical terms and concepts. It’s light, without losing sight of how subject’s importance. Mostly, the questions and topics are well chosen, so much that a word as big as neuroscience finds its space in the everyday life.
It’s a 5star for me.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Dr Mike Tranter is from the North of England and studied how drugs work in our body, but it wasn’t long before he found his true calling as a neuroscientist. After a PhD in neuroscience, he spent years in research labs all over the world, studying how the brain works. Although, it is his prominent rise as a science communicator, opening up the world of neuroscience to everybody, that he enjoys the most.
What is the most misunderstood thing about neuroscience and being a Neuroscientist?
When people think of what a neuroscientist is, I’m sure they think of a socially-awkward nerd, with a brain in one hand, and a piece of chalk in another (in case you walk by an empty chalk board and need to write down some clever stuff). This was certainly my view, before I really went down the science rabbit-hole and became one. A scientist, not a rabbit.
While certainly, some of that paragraph is true (I often carry a brain around in my lab coat pocket, for no reason, I just like to be quirky), in general, neuroscientists, and scientists overall, are just normal people. Pretty standard actually. Nothing particularly exciting, and nothing outrageously boring, somewhere in the middle.
In order to work in research, a number of positions require you to have a PhD. This is basically a 3 or 4 year job, and at the end of it, you get a PhD. Although there are many scientists that are incredibly smart and have a natural talent for the sciences, most people, including myself, simply work hard at something they enjoy, for many years. The fruit of that persistence is that they have a lot of experience and acquired knowledge in their area of expertise. This may play into the assumptions which some people make, that scientists or neuroscientists can be little intimidating or have an aura of superiority. In reality, neuroscientists are fairly normal people. Similar to what you would find in any other profession. In fact, when I was working towards my own PhD in London years ago, when I would meet new people and be tagged with the inevitable question of “so, what do you do?” I would often tell people that I studied biology, and was just a regular student. I didn’t want to come across in any stereotypical way. Although that probably wouldn’t have happened because they people were always very friendly, it was something that I worried about.
This is by no means trying to take away from a person’s accomplishments. I simply mean that when you find something that you enjoy doing and learning about, it is easier to improve and get smarter, because you have a passion for that area.
That is also the thing about neuroscience. It can get complicated, but neuroscience is for anyone who enjoys it, likes to learn, and is persistent enough to stick to it.
Science is very much for everyone. That is why I wrote my book. Because I want people to see that it doesn’t take someone special to pursue an interest in neuroscience, only someone who is passionate about it, and likes to learn new things.
This post os part of a Tour. The tour dates can be found here:
- $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC