A Day in the Life of the Brain review – rethink required

By: Adam Rutherford | A Day in the Life of the Brain review – rethink required | Neuroscience | The Guardian

Susan Greenfield’s attempt to explain the latest research into consciousness has an interesting framing device, but that’s where the clarity ends

You are a male office worker. Your day begins with the buzz of the alarm, and ends uneventfully back in bed. During the day, you interact with characters in your life, including your son Jack, and Bobo the border collie, who is so insistent on a walk first thing in the morning, that – heaven forfend – you skip coffee. The day progresses, and you experience it in the only place that subjectivity occurs, which is in your brain. It’s this device that neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has chosen to frame her latest wade into brains and consciousness. Each chapter begins with a flourish of sorts, a short portrait of the key moments in this nameless drone’s day. It’s a joyless grind – Fight Club without the fighting. Your avatar’s wife Jane is distant and miserable, perpetually tired, probably clinically depressed. Jack is 14, distant and smells of fags, perpetually lost in a two-dimensional online world. On page 150, it is revealed that your mother-in-law Daisy is living with you and has dementia. Basically, your life sucks.

If this is your actual experience, I’m sorry for your troubles. My expression of sympathy is sincere but of course platitudinous: experience is personal and I can never truly know what it feels like to have such a dreary existence. Our sense of how a newspaper feels in your hands, or what the coffee tastes like, occurs in our neural circuitry.

Related: Susan Greenfield: ‘I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum’

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