“The Body Has a Mind of Its Own” by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee

Subtitle: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better

This book contains fascinating information about how the brain represents the body in various maps, giving us our sense of where we are and what our body parts are doing. We include tools in our body map as we use them. Mirror neurons internally echo what we see others doing. Place cells and grid cells help us orient to the space around us.

Unfortunately, this mother-son team of authors play fast and loose with scientific research and include their personal biases and speculation. In the acknowledgements at the end they say, “[W]e have vastly oversimplified the science. […] Certain details and caveats that a specialist would consider vital have been condensed, glossed over, or shoehorned into metaphors.”

Even though the book was published in 2007 it reads as if it was published much longer ago than that. It promulgates fat-hatred and dieting. It uses outrageously out of date stereotypes about autistic people. It attempts to justify homophobia because of mirror neurons. It discusses invasive research on monkeys without compassion for their suffering.

I’m very interested in scientific discoveries about the brain. I wish I could trust what this book said about it.

Available at Powell’s Books.

1 comment to “The Body Has a Mind of Its Own” by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee

  • Indeed, Sandra Blakeslee should know better. With the neuroscientist V S Ramachandran, she was the “make science understandable” co-author of 1998’s Phantoms in the Brain, where Ramachandran explains mirror neurons in great detail, perfectly understandble to this non-medical mind. Ramachandran may have realized his own presentations were adequate: I was riveted by his speech at our local university, and the TED talks linked in this comment are captioned.

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