Incognito – The Secret Lives of the Brain

Author: David Eagleman

Genre: Popular Science, Neuroscience

I have been fascinated by all the latest advances in the understanding of our brain. How does the 3 pound jelly hold so much computational power, and how does it become the real me? I mean transplant all my other organs – entirely different body and colour and height and heart – but as long as my brain and the memories in it remain intact, I am still the same person.

This book takes our understanding of our brains to the next level. Even within the brain, there is a big distinction between the conscious and the unconscious which behave as two different independent entities. The author’s big question: “How is it possible to get angry at yourself – who, exactly, is mad at whom?” And it becomes more and more intriguing. The first chapter is titled (from Pink Flyod’s famous song) : There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me! The book explains: “The conscious you – the I that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning – is (just) the smallest bit of what’s transpiring in your brain… The brain… (actually) runs its own show.” As Carl Jung also said, “In each of us there is another whom we do not know”. The books main point is that the conscious and the unconscious mind, the rational and the impulsive mind, the part of mind that delays gratification and exercises self control for the greater good versus the part of mind which wants instant pleasure – these are independent and often in conflict. It’s almost like many competing sub agents trying to discuss and then usually, when we are in our full senses, our conscious mind decides which path to go with. But there are instances where consciousness fails to decide. Example, in experiments with rat, if you put in front of it food which also gives electrical shock, the poor rat finds itself struck at a certain distance away from food unable to move anywhere. The conscious brain is moving him away due to shock while the unconscious is moving him to the food due to desire, and at that distance the pull just matches the push!