The New Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes in a Complex World

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Elkhonon Goldberg’s groundbreaking The Executive Brain was a classic of scientific writing, revealing how the frontal lobes command the most human parts of the mind. Now he offers a completely new book, providing fresh, iconoclastic ideas about the relationship between the brain and the mind.

In The New Executive Brain, Goldberg paints a sweeping panorama of cutting-edge thinking in cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology, one that ranges far beyond the frontal lobes. Drawing on the latest discoveries, and developing complex scientific ideas and relating them to real life through many fascinating case studies and anecdotes, the author explores how the brain engages in complex decision-making; how it deals with novelty and ambiguity; and how it addresses moral choices. At every step, Goldberg challenges entrenched assumptions. For example, we know that the left hemisphere of the brain is the seat of language–but Goldberg argues that language may not be the central adaptation of the left hemisphere. Apes lack language, yet many also show evidence of asymmetric hemispheric development. Goldberg also finds that a complex interaction between the frontal lobes and the amygdale–between a recently evolved and a much older part of the brain–controls emotion, as conscious thoughts meet automatic impulses. The author illustrates this observation with a personal example: the difficulty he experienced when trying to pick up a baby alligator he knew to be harmless, as his amygdala battled his effort to extend his hand. The New Executive Brain, Goldberg affirms Goldberg’s place as one of our most creative and insightful scientists, offering lucid writing and bold, paradigm-shifting ideas.

“…develop[s] insights into a variety of conditions and dispositions, including specific brain injuries, drug effects, sex differences, schizophrenia, acttention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and more. An especially informative chapter deals with cognitive rehabilitation, including what can be done to stave off dementia. Goldberg also finds parallels between the evolution of the brain and the fates of political systems, including the collapse of the Soviet Union and the assertion of ethnic identities throughout the world…This is a ruminative book…often laced with revealing anecdotes.” — PsycCRITIQUES

“Goldberg successfully uses clinical cases to emphasize this point in the middle chapters. He also offers clear and generally accessible analogies that elucidate the role of the frontal lobes in everyday life. In earlier chapters, however, he introduces a number of elaborate theories relating intricate neuroanatomical and neurochemical systems (extending well beyond the frontal lobes) to complex cognitive processes; and, in later chapters, he goes “inside the black box” as he devises advanced computational-neuroscience models of his ideas. Throughout his book, he successfully presents “a distinctly personal, original, and at times provocative viewpoint on a number of topics in neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience…many of [these points] remain distinctly partisan, controversial, my own”.” — Tara T. Lineweaver, Ph.D. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences

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Pub. Date: August 2009 | Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA | ISBN-13: 978-0195329407 | ISBN: 0195329406