Review of 7 and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Lisa Feldman Barrett’s latest book is a great holiday read for anyone interested in learning more about their brain and how it works, whatever their level of knowledge. After a very short introduction to the evolution of the brain (the half lesson), the author takes you on a short tour of the brain and what it does for us. Importantly, she starts with something that the brain mostly does not do for us, which is thinking.

The seven main chapters explore the structure and networking of the brain, childhood development, the importance of social connections, and the diversity of brains revealed by cultural differences. Lisa Feldman Barrett identifies five abilities that define (social) human abilities: creativity, communication, copying, cooperation, and compression.

The last “C” is particularly important to the brain’s central function which is prediction. It is only by predicting future events, by learning from past experiences, that humans have the ability to adapt to, and even control, the environment around them. This book is a fantastic read and easy to read over seven or eight days in short bursts over the holidays, even if you are already familiar with brain science. Recommended as a stocking filler!

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