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We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. He believes it lies in the pattern of connections between the brain’s neurons, which change slowly over time as we learn and grow. The connectome, as it’s called, is where our genetic inheritance intersects with our life experience. It’s where nature meets nurture.Seung introduces us to the dedicated researchers who are mapping the brain’s connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental undertaking—the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest—but if they succeed, it could reveal the basis of personality, intelligence, memory, and perhaps even mental disorders. Many scientists speculate that people with anorexia, autism, and schizophrenia are "wired differently," but nobody knows for sure. The brain’s wiring has never been clearly seen.In sparklingly clear prose, Seung reveals the amazing technological advances that will soon help us map connectomes. He also examines the evidence that these maps will someday allow humans to "upload" their minds into computers, achieving a kind of immortality.Connectome is a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are. Welcome to the future of neuroscience.


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We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. He believes it lies in the pattern of connections between the brain’s neurons, which change slowly over time as we learn and grow. The connectome, as it’s called, is where our genetic inheritance intersects with our life experience. It’s where nature meets nurture.Seung introduces us to the dedicated researchers who are mapping the brain’s connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental undertaking—the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest—but if they succeed, it could reveal the basis of personality, intelligence, memory, and perhaps even mental disorders. Many scientists speculate that people with anorexia, autism, and schizophrenia are "wired differently," but nobody knows for sure. The brain’s wiring has never been clearly seen.In sparklingly clear prose, Seung reveals the amazing technological advances that will soon help us map connectomes. He also examines the evidence that these maps will someday allow humans to "upload" their minds into computers, achieving a kind of immortality.Connectome is a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are. Welcome to the future of neuroscience.

30 review for Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    A connectome is the sum total of connections between neurons in a brain. Sebastian Seung argues in his book that one's connectome is the essence of an individual. A connectome contains one's memories and personality, and defines who we are. The idea is that at birth, one's neurons are connected with each another at random. As one grows, the brain's connectome changes through the "four R's": reweighting, reconnection, rewiring, and regeneration. These changes are the essence of growing new memori A connectome is the sum total of connections between neurons in a brain. Sebastian Seung argues in his book that one's connectome is the essence of an individual. A connectome contains one's memories and personality, and defines who we are. The idea is that at birth, one's neurons are connected with each another at random. As one grows, the brain's connectome changes through the "four R's": reweighting, reconnection, rewiring, and regeneration. These changes are the essence of growing new memories. I found the first third of the book to be a bit boring, simply because I was already quite familiar with the subject from other books. Then, the book takes a different tack, emphasizing how important new technologies are to making new discoveries in science. This idea definitely resonated with me. Seung writes, If you're a scientist who purchases instruments, you could strive for better ones than your rivals by excelling at fundraising. But you'd gain a more decisive advantage by building an instrument that money can't buy. Seung describes a hierarchy of new technologies, each bringing new understanding to connectomes. He begins with the microscope, of course, but looking at pieces of a brain through a microscope is not very enlightening. The real ground-breaking technologies were various types of stains, such as the Golgi stain. This allowed researchers to identify individual neurons. Later, the electron microscope helped to analyze the structure of neurons, and imaging techniques like fMRI's helped to distinguish functional areas of the brain. Seung is a leading researcher in the burgeoning field of connectomics in neuroscience. In the book, he emphasizes a host of new technologies that he hopes will eventually unravel the connectome of a mouse brain. First, new slicing techniques are being developed to peel off extremely thin slices of a brain. These slices can then be scanned by an electron microscope, whose depth of field is limited. The next technology is computer systems for handling massive amounts of data, in conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI) for discerning three-dimensional structure in a set of images. This section of the book is the most interesting, as the reader feels the enthusiasm of a researcher on a leading edge of science. The last two chapters of the book are interesting speculations. One chapter is titled, "To Freeze or to Pickle?" It concerns new developments in cryonics, in which people elect to have their heads or their entire bodies frozen after death. The idea is that in the distant future it might be possible to revive the connectome in a brain, and thus revive a person from death. The last chapter is about scanning connectomes to generate simulations of human behavior. Would such a simulation be an automaton, or would it have true feelings? And what, exactly, are feelings? If you enjoyed the movie "Matrix", then you will love this chapter.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michiel

    This book was quite a pleasant read, especially compared to some of the other books on brain science I read. Seung gives a very clear and well structured overview of his ideas: from the concepts and principles of the connectome paradigm (basically the idea that a complete map of neuron wiring would allow us to completely understand the brain) to the techniques for constructing such a brain model to some philosophical consequences. The reason that I give a relatively low rating is that I found th This book was quite a pleasant read, especially compared to some of the other books on brain science I read. Seung gives a very clear and well structured overview of his ideas: from the concepts and principles of the connectome paradigm (basically the idea that a complete map of neuron wiring would allow us to completely understand the brain) to the techniques for constructing such a brain model to some philosophical consequences. The reason that I give a relatively low rating is that I found the book quite full of 'hot air' (I also thought this of Seung's TED talk). Being a bioinformatician myself, I recognize the same type of hype that was around the human genome project. We can sequence a person for less than a year's wage, yet not all genetic diseases have been vanished from the face of the earth. Similarly, Seung does not really delve in detail how we will use the connectome to read memories or cure depressions. Though, this might be just me nitpicking. It is also hard to take someone serious who 'mocks' genetics, but at the same time claims neural wiring is the holy grail to solve all of our eartly problems (literally). On the whole this is an enjoyable book, but from a scientific point of view, it is a bit too 'shallow'. A better approach to brain science would be 'On Intelligence', at least IMHO.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul M.

    I've been reading a lot of books on the brain and psychology, and compared to those, this one is more about the brain itself- its structure, its neurons, and, above all, its connections. The idea of a connectome- pronounced "connect-tome"- is that technology is reaching the point where we will be able to map out all the connections in the brain, which will help us understand thought, memory, mental disorders, and so on. The book includes historical background, an assessment of the present state I've been reading a lot of books on the brain and psychology, and compared to those, this one is more about the brain itself- its structure, its neurons, and, above all, its connections. The idea of a connectome- pronounced "connect-tome"- is that technology is reaching the point where we will be able to map out all the connections in the brain, which will help us understand thought, memory, mental disorders, and so on. The book includes historical background, an assessment of the present state of connectomics and nueroscience (including a lot of places where technology needs to advance before more can be known), and ends with a look at some of the possibilities of the very distant future (think cryonics and uploading of consciousness) and the reasons such things are possible but perhaps unlikely. Recommended for those who are interested in the mechanisms behind the brain and in the future of neuroscience.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    What makes us who we are? Think about that question for a moment... ...Among all of the questions we can ask as human beings, even with all of our progress and our potential, that question alone remains one of the most difficult, or perhaps the most difficult, to answer. Innumerable factors are involved when it comes to the inner workings of the mind and how it serves to shape our characters and our behavior. We are only just beginning to understand the unfathomable intricacies of the brain, thi What makes us who we are? Think about that question for a moment... ...Among all of the questions we can ask as human beings, even with all of our progress and our potential, that question alone remains one of the most difficult, or perhaps the most difficult, to answer. Innumerable factors are involved when it comes to the inner workings of the mind and how it serves to shape our characters and our behavior. We are only just beginning to understand the unfathomable intricacies of the brain, this small, yet remarkably powerful organ at the center of all that we do. Our very functioning depends on it. Yet we understand relatively little about the relationship between the brain, with its vast network of neuronal connections, and the foundation of the genome, our genetic “program,” which possesses its own complex code. That is about to change. Of course, the genome serves as the foundation for many of our characteristics, such as our predisposition to various conditions and our physical attributes. It is the framework of our hereditary information, the core of traits passed on from parent to offspring, developed over many generations. However, the genome is not home to the memory of our first love or the feeling of pain when someone whom we know has been lost. It is not the center of our passion, nor is it the basis for our relationships with others. These are the qualities that make us truly unique. Every experience we have is linked to brain activity, specifically between neurons and synapses, which collectively might be thought of as the “circuitry” of the brain. The neuronal connections formed throughout our lives are now the subject of much investigation, because the relationships between these connections, now referred to as our “connectome,” may serve to tell us more about who we are and why than anything ever before. This is where our genome meets the brain's incredible system as it develops throughout our lives (relative, of course, to our personal experiences). Here, nature meets nurture to form the basis for what makes each and every person truly special. As they say, you are your Connectome. Sebastian Seung is an ambitious and charismatic rising star in the field of neuroscience. He has received numerous accolades and currently teaches at MIT as a professor of computational neuroscience. Now, Seung, along with the help of fellow researchers, is determined to understand more completely the complexities of neuronal connections and their relationship to who we are. Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are is a lucid and exciting read about this exploration and the implications for truly solving this greatest of mysteries. Yes, it is a book about science, but this is not your ordinary science text. Seung, regarded as a highly effective and dynamic teacher, makes learning about the science of the brain enjoyable, and the content is accessible. You really get a sense of the potential regarding this research and what Seung and his colleagues hope to achieve through such discoveries. What would it be like to have a better grasp of the causes for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? In my opinion, this book is right for everyone, since it helps to illustrate the intricacies of our inner-connections and aids in giving us a clearer sense of why we are just as we are. But the book is strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in science (especially of the mind) and recent developments in the field of neuroscience. Connectome is also perfect for any reader with a genuine interest in learning more about the brain's impact upon our development as whole human creatures, with our capacity for both love and loathing, joy and chaos. Check out the following website for more information about the book and its author: http://connectomethebook.com/.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Sebastian Seung is one of a group of neuroscientists who want to literally unravel the brain's wiring diagram in hopes that it will be the ultimate tool to determine our individual differences and to solve such deep and thorny problems as autism, schizophrenia, depression and other mental disorders. Seung is a good writer, particularly at explaining the basics of neuroscience and helping you understand the history of research that revealed the existence of neurons, the development of brain maps a Sebastian Seung is one of a group of neuroscientists who want to literally unravel the brain's wiring diagram in hopes that it will be the ultimate tool to determine our individual differences and to solve such deep and thorny problems as autism, schizophrenia, depression and other mental disorders. Seung is a good writer, particularly at explaining the basics of neuroscience and helping you understand the history of research that revealed the existence of neurons, the development of brain maps and the discoveries of how certain parts of the brain specialize in certain functions. The book is actually less successful, I think, when it delves into Seung's main interest -- figuring out how to trace the myriad connections of neurons and dendrites and neurites and synapses in the brain. He makes it clear how daunting the challenges will be in reconstructing a complete "connectome" of even one square millimeter of mouse brain, let alone a whole human brain, and is honest about how much further technology and computing power have to go to make that possible. But he may be right in saying that the promise of connectomics is much greater than any other brain imaging and measurement method now available, all of which are leagues cruder by comparison. The end of the book -- a speculative look at the possibilities of cryogenic preservation of the brain for future revivification, and the prospect for one day being able to "upload" the informational content of a brain into a computer program -- is meant to tantalize and raise some profound issues, but these are so far fetched at the moment they have a slight ring of absurdity. That said, I thought this book had a lot to offer, and it certainly was the most accessible and deepest exploration of this field that I've encountered. Seung is also young enough that he may even see some of his connectome dreams come to fruition.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Keith Swenson

    Who are we? What are we? Dualists take the position that the mind is separate from the brain, while monists say they are the same thing. The connectome presents an intriguing third option: the mind is not the brain per se, but rather the way that the neurons are connected. Sebastian Seung presents this using everyday language, relating the effects to everyday occurrences and meaning. Your genes determine how your body grows from an egg to an adult. Your connectome is determined only partially by Who are we? What are we? Dualists take the position that the mind is separate from the brain, while monists say they are the same thing. The connectome presents an intriguing third option: the mind is not the brain per se, but rather the way that the neurons are connected. Sebastian Seung presents this using everyday language, relating the effects to everyday occurrences and meaning. Your genes determine how your body grows from an egg to an adult. Your connectome is determined only partially by your genes, and quite a bit larger part by your experiences. It is almost a platitude: your experiences make you what you are, but in this book we have a clear explanation of why and how that works. Part I starts by looking at the history of brain science. Phrenology, the study of the shape of the skull, is a largely discredited pseudoscience, but Seung teases us with the idea that phrenology at least promoted the idea that certain kinds of mental processing is associated with certain parts of the brain. Brain size has always been a historical fascination, but it is the structure that is important, not the size. Penfield's sensory homunculus maps specific sensory functions to specific parts of the brain. Phantom senses from amputated limbs can be found in this mapping. Part II starts with the building blocks: neurons, how they function, how they grow, and most importantly how they connect. Seung's unconventional style leads us to the 'Jennifer Aniston neuron' which apparently we all have. It is a specific neuron that is triggered when we recognize Jennifer Aniston. Similar neurons exist for all other specific concepts that we have come to know. This brings him to an explanation of how memory works. Neurons are triggered or inhibited through their connections. The repeated firing of neurons at the same time cause neurons to create new synapses -- new connections that are the basis for long term memory. Learning is then simply the making of new connections between neurons. The way we perceive the world, and the way we remember what happened to us in the past, all comes from the pattern of connections between the neurons. The future of psychiatry is destined to be reduced to a new field called connectopathy: the ways that the connectome might be mis-wired. However, connections are not simply binary on-off mechanisms. The connectome in changed through four different mechanisms which he calls the four R's of connectome change: reweighting, reconnection, rewiring, and regeneration. Part IV shifts to more practical matters: how can we measure and study the connectome? He surveys the various means for solidifying the brain, slicing it, photographing, recognizing the structures, and tracing the path of nerves and how they are connected. For a worm with 302 neurons this has been done, but this is hardly a practical approach for humans-scale brains. MRI and other techniques allow studying living brains. It is all a bit too course grained for now, because while understanding the function of regions of the brain is important, it is the actual specific connections between specific neurons that form actual intelligence. Technology allow for increasingly fine observations, and increasingly massive data result sets, and it would appear that some day it may be possible to map your connectome. Part V concludes the book with some interesting speculation that is sure to please the science fiction fans among us: can we achieve immortality through scientific means? First, can we freeze or pickle ourselves and be revived in the far future when death has been cured? Second, can we be uploaded to a software simulation of the brain. If the connectome can be fully traced in an individual, there is no reason that a simulation of the nerves would not produce a running facsimile of that individual with all their memories and skills. However, that copy of the person would be that: a copy, and not the original individual. It would make no sense to desire that a copy of ourselves achieves immortality, however some connectomes are wired to be insanely egocentric, and just might decide to do it anyway. One tidy book brings us up to date on the state of neurology -- at least at a level that can be understood without a background in neurology. The book has to dispel a lot of myths and historical pseudoscience. It also makes it clear that we are still just at the beginning of the journey of understanding how the connectome achieves its most baffling result: a sense of consciousness.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    amazon review: We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how? Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. He believes it lies in the pattern of connections bet amazon review: We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how? Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. He believes it lies in the pattern of connections between the brain’s neurons, which change slowly over time as we learn and grow. The connectome, as it’s called, is where our genetic inheritance intersects with our life experience. It’s where nature meets nurture. Seung introduces us to the dedicated researchers who are mapping the brain’s connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental undertaking - the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest - but if they succeed, it could reveal the basis of personality, intelligence, memory, and perhaps even mental disorders. Many scientists speculate that people with anorexia, autism, and schizophrenia are “wired differently,” but nobody knows for sure. The brain’s wiring has never been seen clearly. .In sparklingly clear prose, Seung reveals the amazing technological advances that will soon help us map connectomes. He also examines the evidence that these maps will someday allow humans to “upload” their minds into computers, achieving a kind of immortality. Connectome is a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are. Welcome to the future of neuroscience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steven Paglierani

    Sebastian Sung is a brilliantly lucid writer. His analogies are clear; his ideas, interesting. Sadly his medical materialism taints the whole meal. According to Sung, there is no soul. Or anything else which can't be physically measured. Most notably missing are any references to emergent properties. Nor does he refer to the idea that the knowable real world is based on naturally occurring fractal patterns, rather than on logically linear patterns. Worse yet, nowhere does he mention the idea that Sebastian Sung is a brilliantly lucid writer. His analogies are clear; his ideas, interesting. Sadly his medical materialism taints the whole meal. According to Sung, there is no soul. Or anything else which can't be physically measured. Most notably missing are any references to emergent properties. Nor does he refer to the idea that the knowable real world is based on naturally occurring fractal patterns, rather than on logically linear patterns. Worse yet, nowhere does he mention the idea that the only way to make real world measurements is with tipping-point based math. To Sung, simple counting math is enough. Why give this book four stars then? Sung's explanations are amazingly clear. For this alone, this book should be required reading for anyone interested in neuro anatomy. What about the fact that Sung believes the non material aspects of life all reduce to neurons? Well, geniuses are allowed their biases. And Sung is truly a genius. Steven Paglierani

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    Very basic...

  10. 4 out of 5

    David “Skip” Everling

    An accessible book to introduce and help explain the exciting theory that the mind is entirely encoded in the particular architecture of your brain. The central theme of "Connectome" is that such a mapping of the connections between neurons provides a far more complete picture of mental activity than other brain models. As Seung explains, mapping a brain's connectome would enable highly specific examination and treatment of a brain, going so far as to allow correlation of neuronal activity patte An accessible book to introduce and help explain the exciting theory that the mind is entirely encoded in the particular architecture of your brain. The central theme of "Connectome" is that such a mapping of the connections between neurons provides a far more complete picture of mental activity than other brain models. As Seung explains, mapping a brain's connectome would enable highly specific examination and treatment of a brain, going so far as to allow correlation of neuronal activity patterns with memory and conscious experience itself. The catch is the monumental technical challenge of obtaining and handling so much data, as mapping a connectome, like mapping a DNA genome, is a computationally expensive process. In fact, mapping the connections in a human brain is many, many orders of magnitude more complex given the density of neurons and the intricacy of their connections in brain tissue. Furthermore, technology with the proper specificity to automate the delicate task is still in early stage development. Thus a corollary theme in the book relates to the pace of technological change: the field of connectomics banks on the continuation of exponential growth in computer processing speed (e.g. Moore's Law) and accompanying technologies. Assuming that technology continues to progress as it has, Seung proposes that connectomes will naturally become the substrate of which we discuss our mental selves and our conscious identity. Other notes: The fundamental idea of the connectome is persuasive and fascinating, but perhaps because of such preexisting interests, this book was less in-depth than I was hoping for, and much of the content therein will be familiar to other fans of cognitive science or avid tech enthusiasts. Seung devotes the end of the book to the interesting future possibilities of cyber immortality, but they come with the usual speculation & caveats and don't yield much of a takeaway message. Seung's writing style is natural if not as crisp as a science journalist, just occasionally veering too folksy for the science (with a few awkwardly stilted metaphors). I was originally introduced to Sebastian Seung's "Connectome" in his excellent 2010 TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/seba...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gordon

    This is a very well-written book about a topic which, alas, I discovered just doesn't do very much for me. That said, if you're interested in a layman's description of how the brain works from the perspective of a neuroscientist rather than a psychologist, this is a great book. Seung's thesis is that the brain is all about how it's wired, how it's connected. Two twins may have identical genomes, but differ from one another in skills and personality and other attributes because their differing env This is a very well-written book about a topic which, alas, I discovered just doesn't do very much for me. That said, if you're interested in a layman's description of how the brain works from the perspective of a neuroscientist rather than a psychologist, this is a great book. Seung's thesis is that the brain is all about how it's wired, how it's connected. Two twins may have identical genomes, but differ from one another in skills and personality and other attributes because their differing environments and experiences and memories have caused their brains to be differently wired. "Wiring" in this case refers to the patterns of axons and dendrites and synaptic connections that enable neurons to signal each other and collectively create the mind. The reason why Seung thinks that connectomics -- the science of the connectome -- is so interesting is because of its potential to change how we behave. Many things can go wrong with the brain: developmental disorders, strokes, traumatic injuries, psychosis, brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimers, and so forth. In order to cure or alleviate these, he believes that we must understand how the brain is wired. Then, we can look at how to change it, through the basic processes of reconnecting, reweighting, regenerating. Unfortunately, the complexity of the brain's structure and processes are mind-boggling in their complexity. As a result, the science of the connectome is still in its infancy. We can't even see the connectome yet, let alone tinker with it in a predictable, effective way. Our interventions are still at a very gross level: with drugs, surgery, electro-stimulation, and the like. So, while I admire the scientific brilliance of people like Seung, and appreciate his extremely lucid and readable prose, I think I'll check back in with this field in another 10 or 20 years when some more serious progress has been made. In the meantime, I'll stick to reading books about the brain from the perspective of psychologists, which I find considerably more accessible and of more immediate usefulness.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karel Baloun

    Seung is a talented story-teller, weaving in history of science and famous ancient philosophers for a timeless feel, and also sharing the thrill of scientific discoveries and experiments. Connectome, as a craft of non-fiction, is polished to perfection. His thesis is that each human being is no more and no less than the sum of the connections between all neurons, and all of the details in how these systems operate. And that this connectome is constantly updating itself until death, using the 4 R’ Seung is a talented story-teller, weaving in history of science and famous ancient philosophers for a timeless feel, and also sharing the thrill of scientific discoveries and experiments. Connectome, as a craft of non-fiction, is polished to perfection. His thesis is that each human being is no more and no less than the sum of the connections between all neurons, and all of the details in how these systems operate. And that this connectome is constantly updating itself until death, using the 4 R’s: Reweighting means changes in the strengths of synapses. Reconnection is the creation and elimination of synapses. Rewiring is the creation and elimination of neural branches. Regeneration is the creation and elimination of neurons Isn’t it strange how 2010 (ted talk) and 2012 (book publication) feel like so long ago, here in 2017? His research does seem cutting edge, but also somewhat oddly isolated within his field, and the book probably already would benefit from an updated revision. For example, machine learning, convolutional neural nets, and deep learning have all tremendously advanced in 5 years, especially in serial image processing, so this must be aiding his work. Nevertheless, many topics he approaches are thought provoking, and I’m sure this area of neurophysiology will become increasingly important. The one area I wish he could have covered more is the role of various neurotransmitters or other molecules and proteins on rewiring and regeneration. Since he just left that area with “we don’t know how this works yet”, it seems research on cognition improving therapies is still far distant. Lastly, I gave this a 4 since for me I wish he had ventured much deeper into the scientific details. This could well be a 5 for less technical readers who would love and enjoy his very lucid lay explanations of complex brain processes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    A connectome is a map of the connections of the neurons in the brain, Seung thinks that the variations within that framework is what makes us individuals. His descriptions of the brain and how it has been explored are very clear. I learned about axions and dendrites. synapsis and "gray matter" in the brain. He describes the brain like a very dense root system that is hard to decipher due to the complex way information is stored and exchanged across the brain. He says "you are your connectome. Th A connectome is a map of the connections of the neurons in the brain, Seung thinks that the variations within that framework is what makes us individuals. His descriptions of the brain and how it has been explored are very clear. I learned about axions and dendrites. synapsis and "gray matter" in the brain. He describes the brain like a very dense root system that is hard to decipher due to the complex way information is stored and exchanged across the brain. He says "you are your connectome. This expresses the idea that your personal identity is encoded in the pattern of connections between your neurons. If this hypothesis is true, then any kind of personal change is ultimately about changing your connectome." Being able to change is very important and sets us apart from computer programs that might simulate the brain. This book has given me a great deal of respect for the complexity and specialness of our brains. It is apparent that the study of the brain will occupy humans for a very long time!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Totochelamouche

    "[...] you might act like a victim of brain damage. Neurologists know that such victims deny their problems. Amnesics, for example, sometimes accuse others of deceiving them when they have memory lapses. Stroke victims don't always acknowledge paralysis, and may contrive fantastic explanations as to why they cannot perform certain tasks." "[...] since language itself is but a metaphoric expression of human experience." "Perhaps we can resist "the devil" by restructuring our economic incentives, re "[...] you might act like a victim of brain damage. Neurologists know that such victims deny their problems. Amnesics, for example, sometimes accuse others of deceiving them when they have memory lapses. Stroke victims don't always acknowledge paralysis, and may contrive fantastic explanations as to why they cannot perform certain tasks." "[...] since language itself is but a metaphoric expression of human experience." "Perhaps we can resist "the devil" by restructuring our economic incentives, reforming our political systems, and perfecting our ethical ideals. These are the time-honored ways of improving our brains. But in time, science will also invent others. Bernal hoped that humanity would triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil, which he called "the three enemies of the rational soul." We can express his dream in another way - as the quest to control atoms, genomes, and connectomes." "Let's jump ahead for the moment to the last stage, human testing. Physicians manage this stage, administering candidate drugs to patients to see whether symptoms improve. It's neither economical nor ethical to test a drug on people unless there is already good reason to believe that the drug is likely to be safe and effective. Even so, nine out of ten candidates fail at this point, as I mentioned earlier, and the attrition rate is even higher for disorders of the central nervous system." "Historically, most drugs have been discovered by chance." "A few gulps of oxygen are all that stand between us and death." "We do have an alternative to "hypothesis-driven," or deductive, research - the "data-driven," or inductive, approach. It too has three steps: (1) Collect a vast amount of data. (2) Analyze the data to detect patterns. (3) Use these patterns to formulate hypotheses." ""The greatest impact of genomics has been the ability to investigate biological phenomena in a comprehensive, unbiased, hypothesis-free manner." It doesn't sound like what we were taught about the scientific method in school, where we learned that science proceeds in three steps: (1) Formulate a hypothesis. (2) Make a prediction based on the hypothesis. (3) Perform an experiment to test the prediction. Sometimes that procedure works. But for every success story, there are many more stories of failure caused by choosing the wrong hypothesis to investigate. It can take a lot of time and effort to test a hypothesis, which might turn out to be wrong or - even worse - simply irrelevant." "The outer gray matter is a mixture of all parts of neurons - cell bodies, dendrites, axons, and synapses - while the white matter contains only axons. In other words, the inner white matter is all "wires."" "For example, the five broad classes of neurons in the retina - photoreceptors, horizontal cells, bipolar cells, amacrine cells, and ganglions cells [...]" "And researchers can be distracted by the promise of AI, struggling in vain to fully automate tasks that would be more efficiently accomplished by the cooperation of computers and humans." "[...] There exists no fair and certain method of doing science that can outperform the average." "Military historians dwell on the cunning gambits of daring generals, and the uneasy dance of soldiers and statesmen. Yet in the grand scheme of things, such tales may matter less than the backstory of technological innovation. Through the invention of the gun, the fighter plane, and the atomic bomb, weapon makers have repeatedly transformed the face of war more than any general ever did." "You might think that your hand grew fingers by adding cells. No - actually, cell death etched away at your embryonic hand to create spaces between your fingers." "Since experiences like visual stimulation and exposure to language were normally available to all children throughout human history, brain development "expects" to encounter them, and has evolved to rely heavily upon them. On the other hand, experiences like reading books were not available to our ancient ancestors. Brain development could not have evolved to depend upon them." "Amblyopia suggests that we are not simply born with the ability to see; we must also learn from experience, and there is a critical period for this process. If the brain is deprived of normal visual stimulation from one eye during this limited time window, it does not develop normally. The effect is irreversible in adulthood." "As the saying goes, perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." "All human behavioral traits are heritable." "There is good evidence, however, that retention of memories over long periods does not require neural activity. Some victims of drowning in icy water have been resuscitated after being effectively dead for tens of minutes. Even though their hearts had stopped pumping blood, the icy cold prevented permanent brain damage. The lucky ones recovered with little or no memory loss, despite the complete inactivity of their neurons while their brains were chilled." "The ancients already knew the paradoxical fact that remembering more information is often easier than remembering less. Orators and poets exploited this fact in a mnemonic technique called the method of loci. To memorize a list of items, they imagined walking through a series of rooms in a house and finding each item in a different room. The method may have worked by increasing the redundancy of each item's representation." "Nerve growth factor is one example; its discovery won Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen a 1986 Nobel Prize." "In fact, a feeling of difficulty often accompanies the experience of memory, while perception usually feels effortless." "You could think of the brain as being like our society, which abounds in conformists but also harbors some contrarians." "I'll wager that even Pascal, with his depressive tendencies, would not have dreaded the forest of C. elegans."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Masagos Hamzah

    Apt and succinct writing for such a profound and vast topic. Contains great and amusing references to philosophy and history combining science with art. A technical but otherwise informative book on the brain and its connections put in a simple manner for readers with basic biological knowledge to understand. Posits a great number of questions (More than answers) regarding the complex enigmatic mind. Opens up the eye to the possibility of a future revolving around our connectome, Our self. A thou Apt and succinct writing for such a profound and vast topic. Contains great and amusing references to philosophy and history combining science with art. A technical but otherwise informative book on the brain and its connections put in a simple manner for readers with basic biological knowledge to understand. Posits a great number of questions (More than answers) regarding the complex enigmatic mind. Opens up the eye to the possibility of a future revolving around our connectome, Our self. A thought provoking book worth the resd.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sabin

    A cute little book in which Mr. Seung makes some bold claims wrapped up in a very accessible package. His insights come with a wealth of examples and explanations like the weighted voting system of neurons which is an approximation of the way neurons function to determine our actions. All in all a very enjoyable book, which delves deep into the theoretical hypotheses under scrutiny at the moment in neuroscience, albeit in a very pleasant style.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Durbin

    Started great -- like one of the best science books for a general audience I'd ever read. Then it got tedious and even annoying, as when the author urged me to memorize a set of terms (frontal, temporal, occipital...) because he'd be using them a lot. Then he hardly did. I think the author forgot his audience, got a little sloppy, and maybe thinks just a bit too highly of his idea. Which I think is brilliant, by the way. I just didn't need the last 89% or so of this book. Started great -- like one of the best science books for a general audience I'd ever read. Then it got tedious and even annoying, as when the author urged me to memorize a set of terms (frontal, temporal, occipital...) because he'd be using them a lot. Then he hardly did. I think the author forgot his audience, got a little sloppy, and maybe thinks just a bit too highly of his idea. Which I think is brilliant, by the way. I just didn't need the last 89% or so of this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Luiño Seoane

    Unluckily, the science of connectomics is still in its very beginnings so that the book cannot move much beyond speculation. There is a nice compendium of cutting-edge techniques in neuroscience and the book is very well written, which makes you wish for more. I personally was expecting astounding scientific breakthroughs, but soon realized that it is not the moment quite yet. I'd be very glad if the author would revisit the topic 10 or 15 years from now. Unluckily, the science of connectomics is still in its very beginnings so that the book cannot move much beyond speculation. There is a nice compendium of cutting-edge techniques in neuroscience and the book is very well written, which makes you wish for more. I personally was expecting astounding scientific breakthroughs, but soon realized that it is not the moment quite yet. I'd be very glad if the author would revisit the topic 10 or 15 years from now.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    I liked the writing in and of itself fairly well, the the premise the author was trying to sell did not quite come off. It's not even that in part I don't agree with him, its more that it should have been better developed and better researched to sway the audience. I just didn't feel that firing spark of joyful discovery that I had hoped to come across with this. I liked the writing in and of itself fairly well, the the premise the author was trying to sell did not quite come off. It's not even that in part I don't agree with him, its more that it should have been better developed and better researched to sway the audience. I just didn't feel that firing spark of joyful discovery that I had hoped to come across with this.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Stringer

    According to Sebastian Seung, the self is a non-material entity. The 21st-century soul, however, is not some strange ghost in the machine. It's information. You are, in effect, a piece of software running on the wetware in your skull. According to Sebastian Seung, the self is a non-material entity. The 21st-century soul, however, is not some strange ghost in the machine. It's information. You are, in effect, a piece of software running on the wetware in your skull.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sergiy Kuzmenko

    The best thing I likes about this book is Sebastian Seung's reflections of philosophy and religion. The best thing I likes about this book is Sebastian Seung's reflections of philosophy and religion.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Monica Willyard Moen

    This book offers a concept, and understanding of how the brain works, that is intriguing to me. The author posits that the connections made within the synapses of brain regions create our personality, hold our memories, and help us process information in an effortless way. He shows how different regions of the brain can be connected in unique ways so that for example a blind persons visual cortex lights up with activity if that person reads braille with his or her fingers. He theorizes that diso This book offers a concept, and understanding of how the brain works, that is intriguing to me. The author posits that the connections made within the synapses of brain regions create our personality, hold our memories, and help us process information in an effortless way. He shows how different regions of the brain can be connected in unique ways so that for example a blind persons visual cortex lights up with activity if that person reads braille with his or her fingers. He theorizes that disorders such as autism and schizophrenia maybe because by the number of connections and type of connections made within the brain rather than there being some physical abnormality of the brain. He believes that antidepressants work by helping to grow new neurons and by helping new connections to form throughout several regions of the brain. I am not a professional scientist, but I found this book to be quite readable and understandable. It’s fascinating, and I will wait with interest to see how things develop in this area over the next couple of decades. The author says that this theory of connectivity in the brain has been around since the 1800s but that we could not begin to test the idea until very recently. With the creation of new technology, scientists have begun to get some idea of the complex con activity of the brain. For now, they have only been able to map the connections within the brain of a worm. The human brain is much more complex and will require much more computing power.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    In many ways this is a great introduction to neuroscience for the layperson. Although I do think it does lean more towards the "science" part of "popular science". In other words, if you're looking for an easy beach read, this is probably not it. I personally learned a lot about what we know about the brain and also the current prospects to increase our knowledge. The biggest high level take aways: (1) There are enormous obstacles on the path to obtaining an entire human connectome. At the very mini In many ways this is a great introduction to neuroscience for the layperson. Although I do think it does lean more towards the "science" part of "popular science". In other words, if you're looking for an easy beach read, this is probably not it. I personally learned a lot about what we know about the brain and also the current prospects to increase our knowledge. The biggest high level take aways: (1) There are enormous obstacles on the path to obtaining an entire human connectome. At the very minimum I would expect it to take another 40 years. (2) Any progress that is made will be because of radically improvement in experimental techniques, perhaps especially techniques for imaging individual neurons. I wonder if I will be alive to see it ... ? Another point that struck me was Seung's prediction that progress in connectomics would follow the path worm (done) - Fly (by 2025? - mouse - monkey - human (by 2100?) Will be interesting to see if this is the path followed. But in summary, if you have a pretty strong interest in how the brain works, and what the current state of knowledge/limitations of current techniques, I think this is a great book to read. Clear explanations, limited use of jargon and keeps an eye on the big picture.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael Dubakov

    Good book with nice historic perspective and brain anatomy. Last 3-4 chapters are less thorough, but it is understandable, since there are more fictional and have less scientific ground. Connectome and the general idea is that everything is in connections/weights is a feasible concept, so it was interesting to read about progress in this area. Unfortunately, with current technologies it all looks close to impossible. Some quotes: "The function of a neuron is defined chiefly by its connections with Good book with nice historic perspective and brain anatomy. Last 3-4 chapters are less thorough, but it is understandable, since there are more fictional and have less scientific ground. Connectome and the general idea is that everything is in connections/weights is a feasible concept, so it was interesting to read about progress in this area. Unfortunately, with current technologies it all looks close to impossible. Some quotes: "The function of a neuron is defined chiefly by its connections with other neurons." "New synapses are created at a staggering rate in the infant brain. In Brodmann area 17 alone, over half a million per second are produced between two and four months of age." "Persistent spiking is the trace of short-term memory, while persistent connections are the trace of long-term memory. To store information for long periods, the brain transfers it from activity to connections. To recall the information, the brain transfers it back from connections to activity." "Historically, most drugs have been discovered by chance."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shiv

    Its a great book from start to finish. Although I did not completely agree with a lot of the author's views towards the end, it really is great thinking and a fairly believable assessment of the future course of society. The book is split into 5 parts each dealing with different topics that converge to elucidate the working of arguably, the most important part of the human body, the brain. The author gives an openly biased view on most matters, solving; and suggesting solutions for, various probl Its a great book from start to finish. Although I did not completely agree with a lot of the author's views towards the end, it really is great thinking and a fairly believable assessment of the future course of society. The book is split into 5 parts each dealing with different topics that converge to elucidate the working of arguably, the most important part of the human body, the brain. The author gives an openly biased view on most matters, solving; and suggesting solutions for, various problems using the connectionist mantra. Part 1 deals with the old school of thought, namely phrenology, Part 2 speaks of the Connectionist school of thought while Part 3 ties the role of genes and DNA into the equation. The next two Parts speak of the existing and future technologies that may come into play to study the brain and it's connections. I'd definitely recommend this book to anybody with any interest in the working of the human mind and with a little bit of knowledge about basic human biology.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    The science in this book was fascinating, well-explained, and relevant to my life aka my new job doing neuroscience research. Everything that wasn't science, but instead was hooks or analogies or speculation intended to appeal to the common man, I hated witha passion. Basically, I started every chapter groaning out loud and sending snapchats of terrible metaphors or rhapsodies about sperm to my friends, and then settled in to read the rest of the fascinating chapter that actually talked about ne The science in this book was fascinating, well-explained, and relevant to my life aka my new job doing neuroscience research. Everything that wasn't science, but instead was hooks or analogies or speculation intended to appeal to the common man, I hated witha passion. Basically, I started every chapter groaning out loud and sending snapchats of terrible metaphors or rhapsodies about sperm to my friends, and then settled in to read the rest of the fascinating chapter that actually talked about neuroscience. The whole book was like a meta chapter, with introduction and conclusion chapters that induced hair pulling, and inner content chapters that I loved. Overall, I'm really glad I read it, especially because it was great prep for my job and reassured me that I made the right call and am going to find my work fascinating.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Judey

    Embarrassing: I thought this was 'Connect (To) Me, therefore a book about how social media impacts people. When I got it from the library I realized it was about determining the way our brains work and how it makes us, well- us. Given how different it was from what I expected, I am stunned at how much i liked this book. And also how approachable Seung makes the content for this decidedly non-scientific reader. What made it even more fascinating was a random viewing of the new Keanu Reeves movie Re Embarrassing: I thought this was 'Connect (To) Me, therefore a book about how social media impacts people. When I got it from the library I realized it was about determining the way our brains work and how it makes us, well- us. Given how different it was from what I expected, I am stunned at how much i liked this book. And also how approachable Seung makes the content for this decidedly non-scientific reader. What made it even more fascinating was a random viewing of the new Keanu Reeves movie Replicas this past weekend. Early in the movie (which was so improbable it makes Heaven's gate look lucid and budget-friendly), Keanu mutters 'connectomes' during a sequence on brain imaging. Both the movie and the book should, ideally, be experienced together by all readers as the themes ran concurrently throughout.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    Starts basic and doesn't probe too deeply into any one topic, but for a survey, I found it outstanding. The chapters build logically onto one another, from the first introduction of the idea of the connectome to the most ambitious, controversial extrapolations of the idea of the connectome (or more generally some set of information about the configuration of the brain) giving rise to the self. It's true that, in 2018, some sections are already out-of-date, but the most important ideas he present Starts basic and doesn't probe too deeply into any one topic, but for a survey, I found it outstanding. The chapters build logically onto one another, from the first introduction of the idea of the connectome to the most ambitious, controversial extrapolations of the idea of the connectome (or more generally some set of information about the configuration of the brain) giving rise to the self. It's true that, in 2018, some sections are already out-of-date, but the most important ideas he presents are both robust to new information and quite forward-looking, meaning that they are likely to remain relevant for at least another decade or two. Overall, this book is an asset in the all-important mission to better educate the general public on contemporary scientific ideas and debates.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gareth Williams

    Well written. My enjoyment suffered due to bookending with the more illuminating (in some ways mind blowing) “Probably Approximately Correct” (Valiant) and “the book of why” (Pearl). Early chapters are too much a recap of a couple decades of popular science articles and books. The key here is the phrase coined is “it’s neurons all the way down” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtl...). I think a fair summary would be that the book contends that it’s neurons all the way _up_. Brain regions seem Well written. My enjoyment suffered due to bookending with the more illuminating (in some ways mind blowing) “Probably Approximately Correct” (Valiant) and “the book of why” (Pearl). Early chapters are too much a recap of a couple decades of popular science articles and books. The key here is the phrase coined is “it’s neurons all the way down” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtl...). I think a fair summary would be that the book contends that it’s neurons all the way _up_. Brain regions seem primarily interesting to Seung due to differences in their composition of neuron and neurotransmitter variation. Very much aligned to mainstream AI (which is currently knocking it out of the park). And very good if you have no problem with that.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Slightly dated now (hoping for an updated version), this is an accessible book on the current state of brain & behavior research. It is full of great stories and history, wonderful analogies, and philosophy. Seung provides a nice mix of theory and accepted science to explain neural plasticity, memory, transhumanism, and more. I've used it in a mixed majors/nonmajors undergraduate behavioral neuroscience class since roughly 2013. Highly recommended for non-experts who enjoy reading pop science bo Slightly dated now (hoping for an updated version), this is an accessible book on the current state of brain & behavior research. It is full of great stories and history, wonderful analogies, and philosophy. Seung provides a nice mix of theory and accepted science to explain neural plasticity, memory, transhumanism, and more. I've used it in a mixed majors/nonmajors undergraduate behavioral neuroscience class since roughly 2013. Highly recommended for non-experts who enjoy reading pop science books and experts/teachers who are interested in history and clear examples outlining important principles in the field.

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