We all have our own interests or guilty pleasures that we just love to indulge in during our spare time. For myself personally, I find interest in topics that have little relevance to my working life at all.
For instance, I am fascinated by aviation. From watching documentaries about aircrafts to reeling with excitement over the fact that I’ll soon be on board an Emirates A380 airbus, it’s a rather unlikely interest of mine.
Another unlikely interest I hold is human biology, particularly the workings of the brain. This dovetails nicely into the topic of today’s book review.
Neuroscientist and Guardian blogger Dean Burnett has dabbled in a series of books regarding the human brain and, quite simply, what goes on in our heads. The Idiot Brain undergoes a complex journey of the inner workings of our brains and what exactly happens in day-to-day neurological activities, such as memory, fear, personality and mental health.
Fear not, however!
Burnett has ensured one needn’t be a neuroscientist in order to successfully read and understand his book. Written in an entertaining and perceptive manner, The Idiot Brain is the perfect introduction to neuroscience, and is just simply a fascinating read.
Burnett begins by discussing mind controls and how our brains generally make a huge mess of things. For instance, he regards sleep paralysis. As harmless as it may be, it creates a terrifying experience due to the brain “forgetting” to switch on the motor system when regaining consciousness.
This was a comforting section to read, being an individual who has experienced sleep paralysis numerous times. His references to various academic studies are extremely helpful, and truly show the authenticity of his work.
Burnett also goes on to explore the notion of fear, and where it actually stems from in a biological perspective. He outlines how our brains have an inherent “better safe than sorry” approach, meaning we regularly experience fear in situations when it’s not really warranted.
For instance, walking into someone around a corner when least expecting it always gives a slight fright. Or when in bed at night and the dressing gown hung on the door suddenly resembles a blood-thirsty serial killer lurking in the shadows… or is that just me?
My only criticism of this book is a theory that Burnett proposed. I do, however, put my hands up. This is a very biased criticism coming from a woman who stands at five feet tall. This theory suggests that intelligence is linked to height, strongly arguing that the taller a person, the more likely they are to be intelligent.
Despite this not being absolute, many theories have been strung up with regard to height and intelligence, one proposing that growing tall requires access to good health and nutrition, which also facilitates brain development. As interesting a theory as this is, my five-foot-tall pride overlooks it.
The Idiot Brain is a beautifully written book that explains the parts of us that truly make us unique as human beings. It is the brain that makes an individual who they are, and there is nothing more heartening to learn about what it does to keep us alive and well on a daily basis.
The most intricate and fascinating organ in the human body, Dean Burnett has done an exceptional job in outlining how that no matter what, our brains will always be there for us.