Who's in Charge Book Summary - Who's in Charge Book explained in key points

Who's in Charge summary

Michael S. Gazzaniga

Free Will and the Science of the Brain

4 (16 ratings)
10 mins
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    Who's in Charge
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    While scientists have learned much about the brain, we’re still on the cusp of true understanding.

    It’s commonly understood that consciousness and decision-making are in some way influenced by the brain. But how does the brain really work?

    While the brain as the locus of consciousness has been a topic of study for thousands of years, it wasn’t until recently that scientists understood the mechanisms behind it. For instance, in the sixteenth century, people widely believed in the idea of a homunculus, a miniscule creature that lived inside our heads, regulating the workings of the brain.

    And up until recently, scientists thought that if any part of the brain were damaged, another part would simply pick up the jobs performed by the damaged portion, essentially replacing it. However, as has been observed with people who suffer quadriplegia – the paralysis of all four limbs following brain damage – we know that this simply isn’t the case, because otherwise they’d soon be moving around again.

    While there have been plenty of misconceptions about how the brain works, the last few decades have witnessed tremendous discoveries. In the past half-century, scientists have found that contrary to earlier beliefs, the brain is composed of many circuits and areas that work in concert.

    What’s more, we now know that particular parts of the brain actually specialize in certain tasks.

    The human brain is made up of a left and right hemisphere and a brain stem. Each hemisphere is responsible for certain parts of the body, and performs particular functions that the other half can’t do. Meanwhile, local circuits, divided by defined areas such as the speech center, are always sharing information with one another, which allows the body to function and the mind to make decisions and develop.

    So even though scientists are only just beginning to assemble all of the brain’s many puzzling pieces, we are closer today to understanding the human brain than we ever were before.

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    What is Who's in Charge about?

    Who’s in Charge (2011) explains science’s latest discoveries in how the human brain works and what such insight means for civil society at large. These blinks examine the concept of “free will” and how advances in neuroscience are also changing how we approach law and order.

    Who should read Who's in Charge?

    • Anyone interested in how the brain works
    • Lawyers, philosophers or students examining the justice system
    • People curious about the concept of “free will”

    About the Author

    Michael S. Gazzaniga is the director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute and the founding director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Law and Neuroscience Project.

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