Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are ~ Sebastian Seung


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.

Sebastian Seung is Professor of Computational Neuroscience and Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Harvard University, and formerly worked at Bell Laboratories. His research on artificial intelligence and neuroscience has been published in leading scientific journals, and also featured in the New York Times, Technology Review, and the Economist. His laboratory at MIT is currently inventing technologies for mapping connections between the brain’s neurons, and investigating the hypothesis that we are all unique because we are “wired differently.”

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Connectome by Sebastian Seung Book Trailer

The bold and thrilling quest to finally understand the brain—and along with it our mental afflictions, from depression to autism—by a rising star in neuroscience

Sebastian Seung
, a dynamic young professor at MIT, is at the forefront of a revolution in neuroscience. He believes that our identity lies not in our genes, but in the connections between our brain cells—our own particular wiring. Seung and a dedicated group of researchers are leading the effort to map these connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental effort—the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest—but if they succeed, they will uncover the basis of personality, identity, intelligence, memory, and perhaps disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Seung explains how this new map of a human “connectome” might even enable us to “upload” our brains into a computer, making us effectively immortal.

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, both as individuals and as a species.

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