Reviews for Incognito : The Secret Lives of the Brain

Booklist Reviews 2011 May #1
Neuroscientist Eagleman wants us to take a look inside our own heads. We know there's a brain there, and we know some things about what it does, but there's a lot of unexplored territory, too. We know we think and imagine, but how do we do these things? Why will we perceive things--photographs, say, or events--one way under a certain set of circumstances but a different way in different circumstances? What is the unconscious mind, and how does it work? You might as well know up front that there aren't any concrete answers here; this is one of those books where the exploration is the adventure and the journey its own reward. Written in clear, precise language (even when the author is tackling some seriously complicated stuff), the book is sure to appeal to readers with an interest in psychology and the human mind, but it will also please people who just want to know, with a little more clarity, what is going on inside their own skulls. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2011 December
Fascinating things are going on in neuroscience, and the educated public knows that. Writing a book about the brain that nonspecialists can understand (without taking a course in neuroscience) is difficult. With this book, Eagleman (neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine) joins Oliver Sacks, V. S. Ramachandran, and Antonio Damasio in the small circle of people who have done just that. Eagleman's main theme is that what one calls "me," the conscious mind, is only the tip of the iceberg, and that most of the interesting and important things the brain does are inaccessible to the brain's "owner." This is not a novel idea, as it is something every cognitive scientist knows. What Eagleman does is explain the idea to the neophyte through discussion of dozens of fascinating, engaging examples. In so doing, he brings the unconscious mind to light much as Oliver Sacks has illuminated clinical neurology in his books. Eagleman's prose is vivid and, more important, accessible. No wonder the book has found a place on the best-seller list of The New York Times. The book will be an engaging resource for non-majors, and professors might improve their craft by taking up some of Eagleman's examples. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. Copyright 2011 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #2

An up-to-date examination of what used to be called the mind-body problem.

Eagleman (Neuroscience/Baylor Coll. of Medicine; Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, 2009) makes the point that our sense of ourselves as coherent, free-standing personalities is at odds with the most basic findings about the workings of the human brain, an organ so complex that an objective description of it sounds hyperbolic. Instinct, unconscious impulses, automatic systems, emotion and a dozen other forces, most of which we aren't even aware of, affect every thought and action. The book is full of startling examples; split-brain research, for example, shows how the two halves of a mind can be completely at odds, with neither being aware of what the other experiences. Nor are those of us with "whole" brains and a complete set of senses necessarily experiencing the world "as it really is." For example, other animals experience a different part of the visual spectrum, or can detect sounds and odors we have no awareness of. A significant segment of the population—about 15 percent of women—sees colors the rest of us can't. Our brains work differently when learning a skill and after it's become second nature – it's one thing to drive to a new place, another to drive a familiar route, and our brains work much harder doing the former than the latter, when we can go on "automatic pilot." There are lessons to be learned from various mental disorders, as well. Victims of strokes affecting certain parts of the brain may claim that they are operating at full capacity when they are clearly not; one former Supreme Court justice was forced to retire after displaying these symptoms. Eagleman has a wealth of such observations, backed up with case studies, bits of pop culture, literary references and historic examples.

A book that will leave you looking at yourself—and the world—differently.


Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.