Understanding the Brain

From Cells to Behavior to Cognition

John E. Dowling (Author, Harvard University)

Overview | Contents

An examination of what makes us human and unique among all creatures—our brains.

No reader curious about our “little grey cells” will want to pass up Harvard neuroscientist John E. Dowling’s brief introduction to the brain. In this up-to-date revision of his 1998 book Creating Mind, Dowling conveys the essence and vitality of the field of neuroscience—examining the progress we’ve made in understanding how brains work, and shedding light on discoveries having to do with aging, mental illness, and brain health. The first half of the book provides the nuts-and-bolts necessary for an up-to-date understanding of the brain. Covering the general organization of the brain, early chapters explain how cells communicate with one another to enable us to experience the world. The rest of the book touches on higher-level concepts such as vision, perception, language, memory, emotion, and consciousness. Beautifully illustrated and lucidly written, this introduction elegantly reveals the beauty of the organ that makes us uniquely human.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • October 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-393-71257-5
  • 6.4 × 9.6 in / 256 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“[O]ffers a comprehensive look at how the brain functions. . . . From the source of emotions to the possible absence of mirror neurons in people with autism, Dowling’s book is a marvelous and fascinating journey through the human brain.” — Psych Central

“I began Dowling’s book thinking I’d skim the early chapters and move on quickly to the sexy topics of memory and consciousness. But Understanding the Brain is so beautifully written, the story of how the brain is constructed from billions of cells so awe inspiring, that I started on page 1 and read every word. A perfect book for students trying to decide whether to major in neuroscience or for anyone who simply wants to know how nature constructs a thinking, feeling, human brain. The clarity of Dowling’s writing allows the reader to sail through the more challenging sections without losing sight of the big picture or the humbling, jaw-dropping, almost inconceivable genius, of nature.” — Nancy Hopkins, Amgen Inc Professor of Biology Emerita, MIT

“For those interested in the brain-mind problem, this phenomenally broad-reaching book lucidly describes our current understanding of how the brain serves as the messenger to the mind. A master storyteller, Professor Dowling has taught this, "the hard problem," to Harvard freshmen for decades and herein offers his wisdom for all.” — Thomas N. Byrne, MD, professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School; senior lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Understanding the Brain is not only an instant classic among neuroscience texts, but also makes compelling reading. Drawing on lessons learned from the eye of a horseshoe crab and from surrealist film maker Luis Bunuel, Dowling tells the story of how the molecular machinery of the human brain assembled our mind and how  our minds beget reason, dreams and the imagination.” — Gerald Weissmann, MD, Research Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Book Review Editor, The FASEB Journal

“Only a rare talent could demystify the complexity of the brain in sentences available to all readers without sacrificing the details that accuracy requires. John Dowling has written the best summary for those outside neuroscience who want to know the current understanding of the brain and its relation to mind.” — Jerome Kagan, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

Also by John E. Dowling All

  1. Book CoverCreating Mind: How the Brain Works


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