Connectome

  • by Sebastian Seung
  • Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
  • 10 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

“A landmark work, gorgeously written. No other researcher has traveled as deeply into the brain forest and emerged to share its secrets.” (David Eagleman, author of Incognito and Sum)
“Connectomics is emerging as a crucial and exhilarating field of study. Sebastian Seung takes you by the hand and shows you why. Connectome is a page-turner—a book that should be read by anyone who lays claim to be thinking about the nature of life.” (Michael Gazzaniga, University of California at Santa Barbara, author of Human and Who’s in Charge?)
“Sebastian Seung scales the heights of neuroscience and casts his brilliant eye around, describing the landscape of its past and boldly envisioning a future when we may understand our own brains and thus ourselves.” (Kenneth Blum, executive director, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Nice Addition to Your Brain Science Library

Seung's theory, of how the brain stores memories/experiences, is quite extraordinary. I'm no brain scientist, but I've read a number of books on the subject, and as far as I know this is the first book to adequately detail this process. Seung describes this in a way that even the non-scholarly reader can understand. The basic brain science you NEED to know in order to understand this book, he explains quickly and effectively.

His last few chapters, on the future science of connectome research is worth the credit all by itself. He touches on cryogenics, and why it's probably not going to work the way that all the frozen people hope it will. He then discusses a few options of preserving your brain for eternity that MAY actually work.. Overall, if you enjoy brain science, and how the brain effects the way we see the world, then get this book.

Narrator is very good.
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- aaron "Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!"

Complex Form is Complex Function

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). MacLeod Andrews generally handles it well and offers quality narration, though I think some phrasing might have sounded more natural in Sebastian Seung's own voice.

I was originally introduced to Sebastian Seung's "Connectome" in his excellent 2010 TED Talk
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- David Everling "Skipper"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-07-2012
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio