Best of the Brain from Scientific American
Mind, Matter, and Tomorrow's Brain

In Best of the Brain, top neuroscientist Floyd E. Bloom has selected the most fascinating brain-related articles from Scientific American and Scientific American Mind since 1999. Bloom garnishes the impressive lineup with his own introduction.

The articles are grouped into three sections. "Mind" includes stories on consciousness and creativity, among brain researchers' most difficult topics. "Matter" features new perspectives on our senses, psychological disorders, addiction, and more. "Tomorrow's Brain" provides a peek into the future of brain-machine interactions and groundbreaking treatment approaches.

In the understandable, exciting language that has made Scientific American magazine popular among general readers and experts alike, Best of the Brain provides gripping stories from the frontlines of brain research.


Part I: Mind

Ulrich Kraft, Unleashing Creativity

Mark S. George, Stimulating the Brain

Mark Solms, Freud Returns

Carl Zimmer, The Neurobiology of the Self

Antonio R. Damasio, How the Brain Creates the Mind

Eric R. Kandel, The New Science of Mind


Part II: Matter

Nikos K. Logothetis, Vision: A Window on Consciousness

James M. Bower and Lawrence M. Parsons, Rethinking the "Lesser Brain"

Gregory Hickok, Ursula Bellugi, and Edward S. Klima, Sign Language in the Brain

Juergen Andrich and Joerg T. Epplen, Hunting for Answers

Fred H. Gage, Brain, Repair Yourself

Steven E. Hyman, Diagnosing Disorders

Eric J. Nestler and Robert C. Malenka, The Addicted Brain

Daniel C. Javitt and Joseph T. Coyle, Decoding Schizophrenia

David Dobbs, Turning Off Depression


Part III: Tomorrow’s Brain

Steven D. Hollon, Michael E. Thase, and John C. Markowitz, Treating Depression: Pills or Talk

Ray Kurzweil, The Coming Merging of Mind and Machine

Miguel A. L. Nicolelis and John K. Chapin, Controlling Robots with the Mind

Nicola Neumann and Niels Birbaumer, Thinking Out Loud

Kwabena Boahen, Neuromorphic Microchips

Stephen S. Hall, The Quest for a Smart Pill



“The past two decades have brought amazing breakthroughs in our understanding of the human brain…Best of the Brain is an irresistible guide to this new territory.”

-Oliver Sacks, M.D., author of Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat


From Part I: Mind

“Unleashing Creativity” by Ulrich Kraft

The ability to create is one of the outstanding traits of human beings. From harnessing fire to splitting the atom, an inexhaustible stream of innovative flashes has largely driven our social development. Significant insight into the neuronal mechanisms underlying the creative thought process is coming from work with patients who … have suddenly acquired unusual skills as a result of brain damage. Using technical advances such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography, neuroscientists are trying to determine just where those sparks originate.

Scientific understanding of creativity is far from complete, but one lesson already seems plain: originality is not a gift doled out sparingly by the gods. We can call it up from within us through training and encouragement. Not every man, woman or child is a potential genius, but we can get the most out of our abilities by performing certain kinds of exercises and by optimizing our attitudes and environment—the same factors that help us maximize other cognitive powers. Some of the steps are deceptively simple, such as reminding ourselves to stay curious about the world around us and to have the courage to tear down mental preconceptions. Steven M. Smith, a professor of psychology at the Institute for Applied Creativity at Texas A&M University, says many people believe that only a handful of geniuses are capable of making creative contributions to humanity: “It just isn’t true. Creative thinking is the norm in human beings and can be observed in almost all mental activities.”

The ease with which we routinely string together appropriate words during a conversation should leave no doubt that our brains are fundamentally creative. What scientists are trying to discover is why the engine of inspiration seems to be always in high gear in some people while others struggle.