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The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain: A 24 hour Journal of What's Happening in Your Brain as you Sleep, Dream, Wake Up, Eat, Work, Play, Fight, Love, Worry, Compete, Hope, Make Important Decisions, Age and Change

The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain: A 24 hour Journal of What's Happening in Your Brain as you Sleep, Dream, Wake Up, Eat, Work, Play, Fight, Love, Worry, Compete, Hope, Make Important Decisions, Age and Change

Judith Horstman, Scientific American

ISBN: 978-0-470-50051-4

Aug 2009, Jossey-Bass

256 pages



Have you ever wondered what’s happening in your brain as you go through a typical day and night? This fascinating book presents an hour-by-hour round-the-clock journal of your brain’s activities. Drawing on the treasure trove of information from Scientific American and Scientific American Mind magazines as well as original material written specifically for this book, Judith Horstman weaves together a compelling description of your brain at work and at play.

The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain reveals what’s going on in there while you sleep and dream, how your brain makes memories and forms addictions and why we sometimes make bad decisions. The book also offers intriguing information about your emotional brain, and what’s happening when you’re feeling love, lust, fear and anxiety—and how sex, drugs and rock and roll tickle the same spots.

Based on the latest scientific information, the book explores your brain’s remarkable ability to change, how your brain can make new neurons even into old age and why multitasking may be bad for you.

Your brain is uniquely yours – but research is showing many of its day-to-day cycles are universal. This book gives you a look inside your brain and some insights into why you may feel and act as you do.

The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain is written in the entertaining, informative and easy-to-understand style that fans of Scientific American and Scientific American Mind magazine have come to expect.




You gotta know the territory: A short tour of your brain.

Your neurotransmitters.

Charting the day: Your body clocks.

The best of times?

Coming to consciousness: Awake and aware. 5:00 A.M. to 8:00 A.M.

5:00 A.M. Waking to the world.

Your inner alarm clocks.

Your brain chemicals.

Larks and owls.

Coming to our senses.

An orchestra of sensory harmony.

Touch and movement: Feeling our way.

Varieties of touch.

6:00 A.M. Coming to consciousness.

The seat of consciousness.

Emotion, memory, and consciousness.

It’s always about networking.

Little gray cells and big white matter: Myelin in your brain.

Prime time for heart attack and stroke.

7:00 A.M. Those morning emotions.

Reason needs a neurochemical boost.

Can meditation help master those emotions?

Is there a God spot in your brain?

Practice makes compassion.

8:00 A.M. Finding your way.

Why his brain may not ask directions.

How we know where to find our lost keys.

Engaging the world: Getting out and about. 9:00 A.M. to Noon.

9:00 A.M. Encountering others.

That face, that familiar face.

Friend or foe? Read my face.

Mirror, mirror: Copycat neurons in the brain.

The broken mirror: Autism insights from mirror neurons and face perception.

10:00 A.M. Peak performance-or stress?

Stress in the brain.

The alarm that doesn’t stop: Why chronic stress is so bad.

Stress destroys neurons.

Stress ups the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The very thought of it is enough.


The limits of multitasking.

How your brain helps your job kill you.

You can lull your brain away from stress.

Flow versus stress.

11:00 A.M. Decisions, decisions, and more decisions.

The brain’s CEO.

"Chemo brain" can ambush your CEO.

Choosing economically.

Making an emotional moral choice.

Choosing wearies your brain.

The brain has a section for regret.

Noon The hungry brain.

How hunger works in your brain.

We’re losing our scents.

Still hungry? When hunger goes awry.

Why calories taste delicious.

Addicted to _______ (fill in the blank).

Self-control sucks your energy.

Yes, there is such a thing as brain food.

The guts of the day: Getting down to business. 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.

1:00 P.M. The tired brain.

Partial recall: Why memory fades with age.

Can you help your brain stay young(er)?

Predicting Alzheimer’s disease.

How forgetting is good for the brain.

Asleep at the wheel-almost? It could be narcolepsy.

1:54 P.M. Just time for a six-minute power nap.

2:00 P.M. Bored bored bored.

Can’t get no satisfaction? Maybe it’s ADHD.

ADHD and risk taking could be good--sometimes.

Wired and hooked: Addicted to technology.

3:00 P.M. Your pain is mainly in the brain.

How pain hurts your brain.

Mind under matter, mind over brain.

Is hypnosis real?

A window into traumatic forgetting.

4:00 P.M. Exercise your brain.

Exercise grows neurons and improves memory.

Why we get food cravings.

The most dangerous time for teens.

The teen brain is still changing.

But don’t forget hormones.

Time out: Letting go and coming home. 5 P.M. to 8 P.M.

5:00 P.M. The dimming of the day.

Is it really depression? Or just a bad patch?

Searching for the pathway to depression.

Maybe you’re just SAD.

Magnetic energy may work when meds fail.

A peak time for suicide.

Good grief: Addicted to grieving.

6:00 P.M. Coming home.

An oxytocin high.

Nobody home? Loneliness hurts.

Oh, those comforting cravings. Or is it addiction?

Bottoms up: Where many alcoholics end.

Is addiction the result rather than the cause of brain damage?

Still crazy after all these years? Aging isn’t stopping drug use.

7:00 P.M. Gotta sing, gotta dance.

The musical path to the brain.

Music survives brain damage.

Your brain expands to store music.

So you think you can dance?

Born to rock.

The creative brain.

Right brain, left brain?

Don’t oversimplify that right brain stuff.

The musical ear is learned, not born.

8:00 P.M. Humor is healthy.

The best medicine.

Tracking your internal laugh track.

TV addiction is no mere metaphor.

Winding down: Fear, sex, sleep, and dreams. 9:00 P.M. to Midnight.

9:00 P.M. Things that go bump in the night.

How fear works in your brain.

Who’s afraid? Not these brain cells.

When the brain decides it’s time to scram.

The many parts of a violent brain.

10:00 P.M. Lust, sex, and love.

You’ve got that loving feeling . . . .

Your brain on sex.

Women, men, and orgasms: How alike are they?

Does the penis have a brain of its own?

What’s love got to do with it? Plenty, it turns out-for women.

Are you born gay? Sexual orientation is biology, not choice.

11:00 P.M. Falling asleep.

The five stages of sleep.

Insomnia: Curse of the night.

Perhaps less is more?

Interrupted sleep? Don’t call it insomnia. It’s normal.

Call me sleepless.

Still awake? Can you catch up on lost sleep?

Is insomnia worse for night owls?

Midnight. Sleeping in the midnight hour.

Strolling in your sleep.

Drifting into dreamland.

Was Freud right about dreams?

Do banished thoughts resurface in dreams?

Want to dream more? Try sleep deprivation.

Night crew at work: 1:00 A.M. to 4:00 A.M.

1:00 A.M. Night crew at work.

Cleaning up your neural garbage.

Why your brain doesn’t take a break already.

The 10 percent myth.

2:00 A.M. Going against the clock in your brain.

Disasters on the night shift.

Lack of sleep affects doctors as much as alcohol.

Less sleep? More fat.

Biorhythm and blues: Faulty clocks.

Resetting your body clock.

3:00 A.M. Awake and anxious.

Where the nightmare begins.

A false alarm.

That pill to fix your ills has a price.

3:30 A.M. Night nurse on duty.

4:00 A.M. Last sleep.

4:30 A.M. Awake so early?

Your brain tomorrow.



About the Author.


In this thorough health and science overview, journalist Horstman (Overcoming Arthritis) reviews a full day of brainwork by accounting for the mental processes of everyday activities, arranged by hour, beginning with 5 a.m. and “coming to consciousness.” Fascinatingly, Horstman shows how, as hormone and neurotransmitter levels change throughout the day, there may be an optimal time for everything. Moving through the workday, Horstman discusses stress, decision-making, hunger and fatigue, ADHD and more, before returning home to cover music, humor, sex, fear and sleep. Horstman's lively prose is packed with useful information: meditation increases attention while delaying aging; brain exercise and a strong social network decrease the odds of developing dementia; diet can quell morning crabbiness, increase afternoon focus, and promote sleep. Multitasking, as Horstman explains, is less like an efficient model of problem solving and more like channel-surfing; stress, she says, “may be the single worst thing your brain does to your heart.” Information-packed and fully referenced, this Scientific American publication is perfect for anyone with interest in mind/body interaction, mental health or aging. (, August 24, 2009)

Drawing on neurology articles from Scientific American and Scientific American Mind, science journalist Horstman creates a seamless and fascinating look at our brain's functioning throughout the day, adeptly noting cycles and processes that may occur by mentioning them in a time context that makes sense. Beginning her exploration at 5 a.m., when the brain begins to return to consciousness, she bases the chapters on each hour in a 24-hour period and groups hours into sections related to typical activities, such as "Winding Down" from 9 p.m. to midnight. She examines how and when other bodily processes and functions, such as hunger, impact the brain. Drops in blood sugar, for example, also indicate lowered levels of serotonin. The explanations are easy to read, and they incorporate anecdotes and callouts that deftly explain neuroscientific content. VERDICT Appealing to lay scientists, Scientific American readers, and all those interested in how to care for their brain as it matures and ages, this book will be a popular science title. (Library Journal)