Friday, November 4, 2022

The Neuroscience of You: How Every Brain Is Different and How to Understand Yours, by Chantel Prat (author, narrator)

Penguin Random House Audio, ISBN 9780593584774, August 2022

Chantel Prat, a professor at the University of Washington, says neuroscience's focus on how brains work "on average," while obviously valuable, is getting in the way of the research that helps us understand the differences between us, and our individual strengths and weakness.

She writes and narrates in a lively, informal tone, and in each chapter focuses on different areas and functions of our brains, in which we can identify ways in which different people can function very differently.

Some of those differences relate to which side of your brain is dominant. The most obvious sign of that is handedness. But brain hemisphere dominance isn't an either/or thing, nor is handedness. It's a continuum, and while most people are left-brain dominant and right-handed, it's a matter of degree. I'm right-handed, more or less, but there are things I do with my left hand, and things I do with whichever hand is more convenient. This includes, when I have to toss coins into a highway toll collection basket, I do it with my left had because that's obviously more convenient than using my right hand to tolls the coins a longer distance across my body. My very right-handed sister and I were mutually astonished when we were taking a trip together and she, while driving, did it with her right hand. She couldn't imagine doing it with her left hand and not having the coins miss the basket because she couldn't throw them accurately enough with her left hand.

But that's a minor example, and there are more important effects. And most people are somewhere in between, like me, with the dominance mostly right or left, but not completely. It affects how other other things than hand dominance work, and how you approach tasks and problems.

There are chapters on how other aspects of the brain, and the relative sizes of its different parts, affect how we focus, and how and why we do it differently; navigation; and how we connect to each other and the world. Prat is a happy extrovert, and happy to talk about the advantages of that, but also takes about the interesting advantages of being an introvert--including a somewhat more realistic approach to the world, and less susceptibility to (my phrasing, not hers) talking yourself into nonsense.

Prat talks about her daughter, one of the really tiny percentage of people who are not only completely left-handed, but has the functions of her brain completely flipped, the left side doing what the right normally does, and the right side doing what the left normally does.

There are little tests in the chapters, that you can use to get a better idea of how your brain works. They're simple, clear, and can be fun as well as informative. They're about understanding yourself, not being graded.

Scattered throughout, in addition to all the excellent science covered in the main text, Prat scatters fun, chatty footnotes with information that is, in its own way, equally interesting and entertaining.

It's a lot of fun, as well as informative. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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