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Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon

The New Science and Stories of the Brain

By Rahul Jandial
13-minute read
Audio available
Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon: The New Science and Stories of the Brain by Rahul Jandial

Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon (2019) takes a look into the human brain and the science of cognitive health. Debunking common myths about the brain, these blinks will bring you up-to-date insights on cognitive functions such as sleep, memory and creativity, as well as the best ways to harness your natural abilities.

  • Neuroscience enthusiasts
  • Health nuts looking to improve their memory
  • Artists and entrepreneurs seeking to become more creative

Rahul Jandial, MD, PhD is an American neurosurgeon and scientist at City of Hope, a research center, hospital and postgraduate training faculty in Los Angeles. He is the lead scientist at the cutting-edge neuroscience research facility Jandial Laboratory and has written ten academic books and over 100 papers. He has also written columns for VICE and appeared on Today, Nightline, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

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Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon

The New Science and Stories of the Brain

By Rahul Jandial
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon: The New Science and Stories of the Brain by Rahul Jandial
Synopsis

Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon (2019) takes a look into the human brain and the science of cognitive health. Debunking common myths about the brain, these blinks will bring you up-to-date insights on cognitive functions such as sleep, memory and creativity, as well as the best ways to harness your natural abilities.

Key idea 1 of 8

The complex anatomy of the brain controls our entire body, informing our unique experiences. 

When the author, Rahul Jandial, started med school, he found the brain that students were expected to dissect in anatomy class surprisingly underwhelming. But after observing his first brain surgery while interning to become a surgeon, he realized that the organ was indeed the most exciting part of the human to operate on. And no wonder – its intricate structure controls our entire body, not to mention our thoughts and emotions!

On a cellular level, the brain consists of “gray matter,” made up of brain cells called neurons, and “white matter,” which connects neurons to each other like biological cables. When a neuron wants to send a message to another neuron, it sends an electrical signal through a fiber called an axon. The receptive neuron receives this signal through a fiber called a dendrite. But dendrites and axons don’t touch each other – there’s a space between them called a synapse. This is where neurotransmitters, chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, float around. Each neurotransmitter has a variety of effects on our neural communication. Together, these messages and chemical reactions shape the idiosyncrasies of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. 

The most precious layer of the brain is the cerebral cortex, the top layer that accounts for most of the brain’s gray matter. Folded up like an accordion, the cortex is divided into four sections, or lobes, each of which conducts a variety of tasks. 

The frontal lobe controls everything from your ability to do math to learning languages. Within the frontal lobe, a section called the prefrontal cortex is where so-called executive functions such as decision making, personality, and planning lie. 

The parietal lobe, which runs from the top of your neck to the crown of your head, is the seat of sensation. If you’ve ever wondered why your lips, tongue and fingers are so sensitive, it’s because these body parts take up more area in the brain than the entirety of the body below the thighs.

Located at the back of your head, the occipital lobe is where visual processing happens. Finally, the temporal lobe, located just above your ears, is where you process sounds and a variety of other sensations such as dreams, the feeling of suffocation and déjà vu.

Beneath the cortex, the brain’s structures include the hippocampus, the amygdala, the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the brain stem and the cerebellum. In addition to controlling a variety of functions such as the formation of memories and breathing, these structures serve as transit hubs, modulating and fine-tuning signals passed between different parts of the brain. 

But even with all its parts, the brain isn’t a standalone organ; its neurotransmitters reach throughout your body through the spinal cord, as well as directly to your heart and gut.

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