Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friday File

Book and Blog Recommendations


Garrison Keillor, my state’s answer to Mark Twain, often used a signature phrase on his radio show: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” Michael S. Gazzaniga, brain scientist extraordinaire, says that this simple statement explains the essential difference between the cognitive complexity of humans and that of other primates. Put simply, “Other apes don’t have that sentiment.”

A cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California–Santa Barbara, Gazzaniga’s recent book, Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique, looks at how we diverged from our ancestors to become sentient human beings. Hint: It has less to do with tool use and opposable thumbs than you might expect.

Gazzaniga wears his learning lightly and puts forth his ideas in an easy-going style. Though he does not mention them by name, he could have been thinking about PETA when he poses the ultimate question: “Would a chimp make a good date?”


Neuroanthropology, a site dedicated to the “greater understanding of the encultured brain and body,” is another interdisciplinary gem of a blog.

In their own words, Neuroanthropology is a “collaborative weblog created to encourage exchanges among anthropology, philosophy, social theory, and the brain sciences. We especially hope to explore the implications of new findings in the neurosciences for our understanding of culture, human development, and behaviour.”

As part of that eclectic mix, Daniel Lende keeps a keen eye on the biology of drugs and alcohol, with a particular emphasis on “biopsychosocial” approaches to addiction.

Some of Neuroanthropology’s more popular posts include “Cultural Aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” “Sarah Palin and Language,” “Studying Sin,” and “How Your Brain is Not Like a Computer.” The site also features a great page of Web Resources.

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