Joseph LeDoux

The Synaptic Self How Our Brains Become Who We Are Publication date : October 1, 2003

In The Emotional Brain, Joseph LeDoux revealed the neural circuit of pain, and then used it as a model to study the neural foundations of the emotions. In The Synaptic Brain, he carries on his study and delves into the cellular interconnections of the emotional circuits, i.e. the synapses, the areas between neurons that chemical and electric signals travel across.
This fundamental search leads Stern to ask a profound question: How are our personalities constituted? What maintains their endurance through time, in spite of all the life changes that we choose or are subjected to? We think, act, memorise and feel through our synapses, and they in turn determine our preferences and beliefs, thus defining our most intimate selves and enabling us to act as unique, differentiated individuals.
LeDoux shows how neurons shape experience and how experience, through the learning process, determines the neuron network. Fear, for example, is both innate and learned. A rat will freeze at the sight of its very first rat — but it can also be taught to freeze when there’s no rat in sight.
The synaptic interconnections are established by our personal experiences and, in this sense, we fashion our own brains, we create our own personalities.

Joseph LeDoux is a professor at the Center for Neural Science, New York University. He is regarded as one of the world’s foremost specialists in the neurosciences. His 1996 book, The Emotional Brain, has already become a classic in its field.