Livewired | David Eagleman

Summary of: Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain
By: David Eagleman


Step into the fascinating world of the ever-changing human brain with David Eagleman’s book, ‘Livewired.’ Delve into the brain’s ability to adapt and reconfigure itself, affecting the way we perceive and interact with the world around us. From Matthew, the boy who had half his brain removed, to the astounding feats of sensory substitution, learn how experiences and interactions shape the brain throughout our lives. Marvel at the possibilities of prosthetic limbs and sensory addition, and understand how the brain adapts based on what is important to it. Be prepared to discover the intricate and flexible nature of our brain and its mind-blowing potential.

The Remarkable Ability of the Brain to Livewire

Matthew had half of his brain removed as a treatment for his seizures. Although he still experiences some minor difficulties, his brain remarkably adapted itself to function almost normally. This is because the brain is capable of rewiring and reconfiguring itself to cope with different situations. The human brain contains billions of neurons with trillions of connections. It constantly adapts, adjusts, and communicates with different regions, forming an intricate tapestry. Our experiences and interactions play a significant role in shaping our brains, particularly during youth when the brain is most plastic. The brain also contains a homunculus, a neurological map of our body, and rewires itself to suit different opportunities. Blind individuals, for example, can develop heightened skills in other areas because their brain region reserved for vision is repurposed. Our brains are constantly changing, and that’s what makes us who we are.

The Wonders of the Brain

The brain has the ability to process different types of sensory information, be it through substitution, enhancement, or even addition. This is exemplified by experiments using sonic glasses, cochlear implants, and magnetic field implants, which allow people to adapt to and even experience new sensations. The possibilities are endless, from feeling internet data to sensing your partner’s physiological state. The question remains: what will the brain make of this information?

The Brain’s Capacity for Learning and Adaptation

The brain’s incredible ability to learn and adapt is not limited to humans alone. Dogs and even those born with physical limitations can also acquire an impressive range of skills, as long as their brains have the necessary options available. Through “motor babbling,” the brain can refine its output and learn to operate any kind of body to which it is connected. This principle is behind the promising progress made in the development of brain-controlled prosthetic limbs and remote-controlled robots. With wireless connections, it is now possible to control machines using only our thoughts. The future holds immense possibilities for human advancement and exploration.

Importance of Motivation in Brain Function

The brain adapts based on what’s important to it. A chemical called acetylcholine prompts the brain to rewire itself, but it only gets released when the brain registers something as important. Motivation plays a vital role in brain function and the progress one is capable of making. The brain may be flexible, but it only does things that it considers useful for the body.

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