The Drain Brain; from Attention Mechanisms to Memory Processing, the Neuroscience of Sleep and the Psychology of Superstition, a New Book, the Idiot Brain, Highlights All Manner of Ways in Which the Brain Is Flawed. Its Author, Cardiff University Lecturer Dr Dean Burnett, Explains to Rachael Misstear How These Shortcomings Can Have a Big Impact Our Lives

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 30, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Drain Brain; from Attention Mechanisms to Memory Processing, the Neuroscience of Sleep and the Psychology of Superstition, a New Book, the Idiot Brain, Highlights All Manner of Ways in Which the Brain Is Flawed. Its Author, Cardiff University Lecturer Dr Dean Burnett, Explains to Rachael Misstear How These Shortcomings Can Have a Big Impact Our Lives


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Despite growing up in the Royal Hotel in Pontycymer, where his father Peter was the landlord, Dean ended up a very different person to his dad, now a successful hotelier and property developer.

"It was a strange upbringing in terms of my character," said Dean. "It was a lovely little community but I was a shy boy living in a pub where there were an endless parade of largerthan-life characters, like a Welsh Phoenix Nights. "It was weird for me being the shy kid in such a social environment, filled with people drinking and dancing. It was a very popular pub, in fairness.

"The Burnetts are notoriously gregarious and fun-loving and it took a while for that side of me to 'kick in'. While dad and I have always remained close, we turned out to be very different in terms of interests. You could say I was sort of like the classic teenager rebelling against his father, but with a dad like mine, I rebelled by becoming a bookish nerd!

q y "I never had any problems, but I was quite shy and retiring. My sister Katie was the more enthusiastic one who would play with everyone. I was quite meek.

"My interest in psychology and neuroscience came from there. I wanted to know, 'Why am I different, why am I this massive nerd?' There didn't seem to be any reason for it."

Twenty years later Dean has discovered there is no single, straightforward answer.

"It's all to do with the environment, quirks, internal processes," he said.

In his book, Dean says the bottom line is that the brain is fallible.

"It may be the seat of consciousness and the engine of all human experience, but it's also incredibly messy and disorganised despite these profound roles. You have only to look at the thing to grasp how ridiculous it is - it resembles a mutant walnut, a Lovecraftian blancmange, a decrepit boxing glove and so on. It's undeniably impressive, but it's far from perfect, and these imperfections influence everything humans say, do and experience.

"So rather than the brain's more haphazard properties being downplayed or just flat-out ignored, they should be emphasised, celebrated even."

It was Dean's dry sense of humour and a dalliance with stand-up comedy that gave him real confidence to communicate his specialism.

"Burnetts generally love a sing-song (Dean's aunt Caz is a successful singer and younger sister Mollie a rising star). But I never had any musical skills. I wanted to get up on stage but never really had the guts. And if I did get up, what would I do then? "Then I started doing comedy skits school. You're not being yourself, really, you're able to adopt character.

at re At an st university I did more comic plays and student pantos and improvised stuff. …

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The Drain Brain; from Attention Mechanisms to Memory Processing, the Neuroscience of Sleep and the Psychology of Superstition, a New Book, the Idiot Brain, Highlights All Manner of Ways in Which the Brain Is Flawed. Its Author, Cardiff University Lecturer Dr Dean Burnett, Explains to Rachael Misstear How These Shortcomings Can Have a Big Impact Our Lives
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