Recommended by: Mike Valente
Welcome to Your Brain is a wonderful overview of the workings of your brain along with many tips on the most difficult of life’s problems that begin with the brain. It dispels myths about the brain – alcohol, in-itself, does not kill brain cells – and serves to differentiate between various drugs’ effects on the brain – consistent use of LSD has no lasting effect, while a little cocaine can be debilitating. More than hard facts or interesting anecdotes, this book is a wonderful guide on how to think about your brain and thus how to think about choices you make in life.
Because of the impermanence and evolving nature of science and medicine I am more skeptical of scientific claims than any other, but this book resists ultimate claims and favors process and function. These two neurologist are willing to admit that they don’t know why cocaine hurts the brain so much or why red wine is so beneficial, all they can say is that observation is difficult to refute. The most exciting part of this book isn’t the explanation of the extraordinary effects of drugs or the helpful tips regarding jet lag and forgetfulness, but the illumination of the typical and everyday functioning of the brain in sleep, eating, sensation, and emotions. I like knowing that spicy food uses the same brain receptor that heat does, and that’s why we call spicy food ‘hot.’ There is something liberating in understating that smell has evolved as a form of memory and protection in your brain.
Still though, there is something unnerving about learning too much about the brain. I resist the chapters on emotions and love because I like the mystery. I like not knowing why I’m predestined to fall in love at an early age or why I am more prone to be amazed and elated so easily. Mystery is the fun part, and the knowledge seems less enjoyable. I know this is just like refusing to sail to the horizon because you want the world to be flat, but in 1492, I definitely would not have been stupid enough to try to sail around a flat world, and that’s probably because I inherited many genes that make my brain more prone to anxiety, caution, and survival.