We’ve all got one, but not many of us understand what goes on in our brains. What exactly in consciousness? How do we remember things? Why do we associate certain memories with certain smells? Well, instead of having to wade through involved texts, Sussex brain experts have put their heads together to explain 50 incredible ideas in neuroscience for a new book – with each idea taking up just 30 seconds – allowing us to virtually dissect our own brains.
Published on 6th March, 30 Second-Brain (Icon Books) challenges ideas such as whether brain training can actually improve your IQ and is aimed at anyone who is interested in how the brain works, what happens when it goes wrong, and how it helps define who we are. Edited by University of Sussex neuroscientist and Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Conscious Science, Professor Anil Seth, 30 Second Brain also features other Sussex based contributors.
Professor Jamie Ward, whose research is largely devoted to our understanding of unusual perceptual experiences, such as synaesthesia – in which one sensation, like taste, may trigger another, such as the association of a colour with that taste, features in the new book. Other Sussex experts include Professor Michael O’Shea, who writes about the structure of the brain and how our 90 billion neurons (brain cells) chatter among themselves to conjure up our self-awareness and Dr Daniel Bor, who puts into simple terms how we now know that different areas of the brain are specialised for different functions, such as memory.
Professor Seth, who together with his colleague Dr Ryota Kanai reveals the latest knowledge on consciousness, says the collection is not at all exhaustive and its main purpose is to whet readers appetites rather than be a whole ‘brain banquet’.
“Together with my co-authors we went through several stages of winnowing down a long list of topics. In the end, I believe we’ve come up with a selection that takes us from the basic building blocks of the brain all the way to how the cognition, perception, and even how understanding the brain can help us think about our role in society. The content was also shaped to take advantage of the particular expertise of the authors; for instance I was keen to include a whole section on ‘consciousness’, my own main research topic!”
He adds: “I strongly believe that even complex ideas can be explained simply, if one chooses the right aspects to explain. Of course each ’30-second’ summary could be the basis of an entire book, but that’s just the point.”
“The ideas are presented in a way accessible to anyone, from teenagers to pensioners, without any particular background – just some desire to understand. But because it’s completely up-to-date and written by experts, even those already in the field will find there are new and compelling ways to explain complex phenomena.”
So – The 30-second brain will be educational and easy to get your head around. If you excuse the pun…