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Book Reviews
May 2001

An Anatomy of Thought: The Origin and Machinery of the Mind

Author Affiliations


Arch Neurol. 2001;58(5):829-830. doi:

by Ian Glynn, 456 pp, with 76 illus, $35, ISBN 0-19-513696-9, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 1999.

The title of this book may give an impression that Glynn has provided yet another take (ie, a theory) on the biological basis of the mind and consciousness (cf, Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, New York, NY, Harcourt Brace & Co, 1999). However, this is not the case. Glynn's intention was actually to summarize and put together a large body of knowledge on the workings of the mind in a simple, cohesive, and understandable manner. Furthermore, Glynn portrays the current state of the knowledge, then identifies the gaps in the current knowledge, and sometimes he goes on and injects his own opinion about how to go about filling the gap. He begins with explaining the nerve messages—how nerve cells allow the brain to see, taste, and smell—and goes on to explain how the interaction of nerve cells in our brains enables language, memory, and emotions to occur, and how this gives rise to the ability to analyze situations, make decisions, and associate past events. Glynn even goes on to address the work on parallel processing in computers and its applications to understanding the workings of the human brain. Thus, the book accomplishes effectively the primary objective set forth at the outset, namely, to integrate an array of disciplines, including physiology, neurology, psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy, in order to explain the workings of the brain and unlock the machinery of the mind. In this sense, the title of the book is quite apt.

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