Dr. Alan Jasanoff, The Biological Mind
Smithsonian Associates, Interview Series
We often consider the brain as the seat of our personal identity and our autonomy. But according to our guest today, Alan Jasanoff, director of the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, the way we talk about it is often rooted more in mystical concept than scientific fact, which can overlook the physical realities of mental function. The brain is an organ, he emphasizes, not an inorganic machine like a computer. As such, he cautions that our understanding of its workings can’t be separated from its surroundings—our human body and the world beyond it.
Drawing on his new book, The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are (Basic Books), Jasanoff explores the bodily influences on our brain and psychology, and ways that the environment connects to our behavior. In the process, he discusses a wide range of factors, from chemicals in the blood to bacteria in the digestive system, the weather to subconscious sights and sounds.
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