I never used to discuss neuroscience on the bus but it’s happened twice in the last month. On one occasion a fellow passenger mentioned that her “brain wasn’t working properly” to explain that she had gone through a long period of depression. On another, an exchange student enthusiastically told me that one of the advantages of learning abroad is that a new language “made your brain more efficient”. In each case, the conversation was spattered with references to the brain as casually as we mention family members– “I don’t think my brain can handle multi-tasking” gliding between us as easily as “my cousin studied in Paris”. A grey day in London, rain on the windows, talking neuroscience with strangers.
Brain science is persistently championed as an answer to life’s deepest problems. It reveals “the deepest mysteries of what makes us who we are”, claims Elaine Fox in the introduction to her book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, which could be the introduction to any number of pop neuroscience books that now fill our shelves. Super Brain, Buddha’s Brain, The Tell-Tale Brain, The Brain That Changes Itself – you could stock a library with the new generation of books that encourage us to view life through a neurological lens.
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