Lately I’ve been reading a lot of work exploring cognitive science. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks and This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin are both excellent books exploring the responses of our brain to music. Levitin focuses on healthy brains, while Sacks explores the pathological; how people with autism or synesthesia experience music. Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf, describes how reading developed throughout history and the effect it had on our neural circuitry.
iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind (Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan) takes this idea of neural plasticity and raises it to a new height of sensationalism, equating neural rewiring with evolution and claiming the current generation of “Digital Natives” have profoundly different brain structures than older people. Today’s youth are apparently growing up in digital world with underdeveloped frontal lobes and weak interpersonal skills. A bit much if you ask me. If kids’ brains can adapt to new technologies so quickly, then they can easily accommodate other forms of media and skills of social interaction.
Norman Doidge’s genre-defining book The Brain That Changes Itself suggests as much: our brain is much more malleable and flexible in how it processes phenomena than previously thought. My Stroke of Insight is another gem by Jill Bolte Taylor. The author experienced a stroke in her left hemisphere, and describes the process from within, a process she was acutely aware of due to her job as a neuroscientist. Read my review here