The Private Life of the Brain: Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret of the Self

The Private Life of the Brain: Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret of the Self

The Private Life of the Brain: Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret of the Self

The Private Life of the Brain: Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret of the Self

Synopsis

How does the human brain produce your private world?
Critically acclaimed neuroscientist and author Susan Greenfield, who holds the prestigious position of Director of the Royal Institution in England, weaves together a thought-provoking examination of childhood experiences, primal emotions, such as fear and euphoria, and the effects drugs have on our personalities to probe the most intriguing mystery facing today's scientists: How does the human brain create consciousness and a unique sense of self?
In this absorbing, lyrical exploration, Dr. Greenfield presents a provocative new theory that treats emotions as the building blocks of our consciousness and provides an illuminating glimpse into the human brain that reveals the astonishing essence of who we are.

Excerpt

This book initially started life as a neuroscientist's exploration of pleasure. I was fascinated by what motivated so many of my colleagues and friends to work hard, to accrue money and to invest long hours in a library or oπce, when instead they could simply have been sitting in the sun or enjoying a good claret. Obviously, they needed to survive and feed and clothe their children, but many of us in Western society can achieve those goals without working the long hours that many do. And the price paid seemed crazy. You have only to look at children splashing in a paddling pool, and in general living for the moment, to feel that one has, perhaps, lost the plot. What has actually happened in the brain?

The human condition seems to entail an uneasy vying between times of abandonment when we “let ourselves go” and other times—most of the time, in fact—when we are “developing” or “broadening” our minds, where above all, we have a strong sense of ourselves and some partial control, at least, over what is happening around us. The more I tried to translate into brain terms this dichotomy between the sensual, momentary existence and the self-conscious adult human mind-set, the more I realized that it did not apply to pleasure alone, but to a far wider range of basic emotions. Hence the quest for a neurophysiology of pleasure widened into a consideration of all the emotions, both how the brain can accommodate their diversity, as well as whether there might be a common basic factor that distinguishes an emotion, in general, as such. My “solution,” as you will see, is that emotions and the mind are not stark polar opposites, but rather the ends of a continuum.

In order to match up what we feel to greater or lesser extents at any time with what is going on in the brain, I was thankful for my earlier . . .

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