Jean-Didier Vincent

A Guidebook to a Journey Around the Brain Publication date : October 11, 2007

“It is because human beings have a brain which experiences everything that happens in and to the body — with its share of pain and pleasure — that they can say ‘I'. The brain assumes responsibility for each person's destiny; it is the agent of intelligence. External decisions or inclinations cannot be imposed upon it. Yet though the body is under the brain's undivided rule, the body, in turn, exercises a powerful, inescapable influence on the brain. Wouldn't it be unreasonable to refuse to understand the workings of the very thing that allows us to acquire knowledge and understanding? It would be like going to Egypt without visiting the pyramids, or to Rome without seeing the Coliseum. These are some of the thoughts that led me to imagine the present guidebook to the inside of the brain.

“Let us then begin our journey through the brain, the capital and seat of government, with the numerous institutions, councils and courts that enable the human body to function. We will visit the famous places where language holds sway and such fashionable spots as the hypothalamus and its centres of pleasure. We will go to the centres of memory and to those places where we satisfy our most basic needs, such as eating, drinking and sleeping, as well as to other less avowable places. We will try to explore some secret passages.

“The subject of this guided tour is your own brain, which though unique is like all other brains. Knowing the brain better means knowing yourself better. But we mustn't forget that a brain that is ill can be treated and often healed. The vocation of this book is also to help relieve suffering,” writes Jean-Didier Vincent.

The brain is our identity, our memory, our sensations, our feelings, our drives, and our ideas. In this book, Jean-Didier Vincent, the French neurobiologist who has furthered our understanding of what makes humans such passionate, desiring and suffering creatures, takes us on a guided tour deep inside ourselves.

Who were the first explorers? What did they discover inside the vast human terra incognita? What do we now know about this mysterious land, locked inside each human being?

How are moods, desires, memories and ideas formed? How can they be developed? What can be done to prevent the ravages of time?

This is an indispensable guidebook to a fascinating tour.

Jean-Didier Vincent is the author of, most notably, Biologie des passions and La Chair et le Diable. He is a professor at the Institut Universitaire de France and in the faculty of medicine of the University of Paris-Sud. A member of the French Academy of Sciences, he was formerly the director of the Alfred Fessard Institute of Neurobiology, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).