Mind Hacks

Tips and Tools for Using Your Brain

Written by: Tom Stafford and Matt Webb

Published by: O'Reilly Media Inc.

Reviewed by: Brian Boudreau

Member of MELUG-Central

A Division of MainE Linux Users Group

Cognitive neuroscience. The words themselves sound pretty far-fetched. According to the authors of Mind Hacks, cognitive neuroscience is the study of the brain biology behind our mental functions. In a nutshell, cognitive neuroscience is the study of the nature of thought.

Why would a lay person want to learn about cognitive neuroscience? Well, haven't you ever wondered how a magician is able to do his or her magic tricks? Haven't you ever wondered how an artist is able to create what appears to be a three dimensional image on paper? Haven't you ever wondered how a ventriloquist is able to throw his or her voice? For those who may be curious about how the mind is able to perceive certain illusions as reality, Mind Hacks would be a book they may want to read.

Mind Hacks is far from being a book filled with medical mumbo-jumbo and technical wizardry. Instead, Mind Hacks takes the time to explain to the reader just how the mind perceives certain tricks to be reality, and why the mind does so. Each hack in the book is actually some sort of a trick or illusion that the reader can perform to better understand how the brain works. At the end of each hack is a section highlighting how the illusion works and why.

Starting with the first section, Mind Hacks outlines various parts of the brain and how they work. The authors do a great job in their explanation without using a lot of medical lingo and technical jargon. Overall, the book itself is relatively easy to read and understand.

We have all heard the statistic that we only use about 10% of our brain. Is this fact or myth? Read hack number six of Mind Hacks to find out.

Once the reader has a basic understanding of how some parts of the brain work, the book continues into sight and how the brain perceives what we are seeing. Those who are interested in visual sleights of hand may be interested in this section.

The section on sight covers interesting topics such as understanding how the mind processes your vision, understanding the limits of your vision, mapping your blind spot, and how to fool yourself into seeing in three dimensions. Cartoon lovers may want to read up on hack twenty seven, which explains how to create motion from a static object.

The next section after sight covers paying attention. Would you believe that you can improve your visual attention by paying video games? Read hack forty three to find out!

The section on hearing and speech details how the mind perceives what is being heard. Some very interesting topics are how to detect timing with your ears as well as how to detect sound direction.

The next section on integration shows how the brain perceives mutliple inputs from multiple senses. Anyone interested in how a ventriloquist is able to throw their voices may want to read hack sixty.

The section on motion has some really interesting topics such as how our autopilot works, why you can't tickle yourself, and how to test whether we are left handed or right handed. Do you believe you can use both sides of your brain at the same time? Read hack sixty nine to find out.

Mind Hacks also covers some very interesting topics on reasoning as well as remembering. Have you ever wanted to improve your memory? If so, you need to read hacks eighty one, eighty four, and eighty seven. Do you believe in subliminal messages? Read hack eighty three. Caffeine addicts may be interested in reading up on hack ninety three.

Finally, Mind Hacks' covers other people. What makes a person's face special? How do we signal emotion? How do we make ourselves happy? These questions and more are answered in Mind Hacks .

Mind Hacks is an interesting book to have for those who are interested in how the brain perceives everything around us. People who are interested in visual or audible illusions would benefit greatly form reading Mind Hacks . Overall, Mind Hacks is a great book for a novice to explore the world of cognitive neuroscience,