Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist with a sense of humour. In The Idiot Brain he attempts to describe the inner workings of our minds in a way that we can understand… that is, as far as anyone can understand. Burnett makes no apology about how little even ‘experts’ really know about the functioning of the brain.
If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.
Burnett uses the above quote to illustrate just how little is truly known about the organ that makes us what we are. But he goes bravely on to explain, in a brilliant way with words, what is known, or thought to be known.
The book is divided into chapters covering the various areas of the brain; the senses, fear, attempts to measure intelligence, memory and what can happen when things go wrong. It is an interesting and, at times, sobering read, despite Burnett’s sometimes hilarious turns of phrase. As someone with a loved one who has suffered a neurological/psychological disorder for the last four years, I know the frustration and heartbreak that such problems can bring. As I said before, for me, the most abiding message in this excellent book is that, despite research pushing the boundaries, so much still needs to be understood.
I enjoyed The Idiot Brain; I felt I learned something from it. Dean Burnett is a delight. In his introduction he tells us,
A former colleague once told me that I’d get a book published ‘when hell freezes over’. Sorry to Satan, this must be very inconvenient for you.
I am glad he persevered.