The bold and thrilling quest to finally understand the brain
We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how?
Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. He believes it lies in the pattern of connections between the brain’s neurons, which change slowly over time as we learn and grow. The connectome, as it’s called, is where our genetic inheritance intersects with our life experience. It’s where nature meets nurture.
Seung introduces us to the dedicated researchers who are mapping the brain’s connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental undertaking—the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest—but if they succeed, it could reveal the basis of personality, intelligence, memory, and perhaps even mental disorders. Many scientists speculate that people with anorexia, autism, and schizophrenia are “wired differently,” but nobody knows for sure. The brain’s wiring has never been clearly seen.
In sparklingly clear prose, Seung reveals the amazing technological advances that will soon help us map connectomes. He also examines the evidence that these maps will someday allow humans to “upload” their minds into computers, achieving a kind of immortality.
Connectome is a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are. Welcome to the future of neuroscience.
"A landmark work, gorgeously written. No other researcher has traveled as deeply into the brain forest and emerged to share its secrets."
"Connectomics is emerging as a crucial and exhilarating field of study. Sebastian Seung takes you by the hand and shows you why. Connectome is a page turner—a book that should be read by anyone who lays claim to be thinking about the nature of life."
"Sebastian Seung scales the heights of neuroscience and casts his brilliant eye around, describing the landscape of its past and boldly envisioning a future when we may understand our own brains and thus ourselves."
"Sebastian Seung can do it all. On top of being recognized as a superb physicist, a whiz with computers, and a path-breaking neuroscientist, he's a terrific writer, as inspiring as he is clear and good humored."
"Seung has an intelligent, educated, and powerful voice, with a flair for the well-placed metaphor."
Christof Koch, California Institute of Technology; Chief Scientific Officer, Allen Institute for Brain Science; author of Quest for Consciousness and Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist