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Neuroscience Program

Recommended Reading

Recommended by Christelle Sabatier, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biology & Director of the Neuroscience Program

So you want to be a neuroscientist book cover

So You Want to Be a Neuroscientist?
by Ashley Juavinett, PhD
★★★★☆ 4.48

This quick read highlights the many career opportunities for individuals with training in Neuroscience and provides some great examples of Neuroscientists working in many different fields. In addition, the author discusses what career paths require a PhD in Neuroscience and provides guidance for how to navigate that process. The ebook version can be accessed through this link for all SCU students.

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Models of the Mind: How Physics, Engineering and Mathematics Have Shaped Our Understanding of the Brain
by Grace Lindsay, PhD
★★★★☆ 4.52

Modern neuroscience is becoming increasingly computational. This book traces the history of mutual influences between computational approaches and neuroscience knowledge. Written in a very approachable style with the mathematics spelled out in an appendix for the readers that want to go reader. It is available for check-out directly from the Neuroscience program lending library. Contact if interested.

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Projections: A Story of Human Emotions
by Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD
★★★★☆ 4.24

You may know Karl Deisseroth as an early developer of the optogenetics technique that has revolutionized Neuroscience over the past decade. But did you know that he was also a practicing neurologist? He specializes in seeing patients with particularly difficult problems. This book combines patent stories with insights into the circuitry of the brain.

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The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery
by Sam Kean
★★★★☆ 4.24

“Sam Kean is an excellent science writer who manages to transport his readers across the ages as scientists struggled to understand the brain both in its intact state and when it is disrupted. His stories highlight how much our concepts of how the mind works have changed across centuries and how much still remains to be uncovered.” - Dr. Sabatier


Any book by Oliver Sacks. Some of my favorites are

  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
  • The Mind’s Eye

Recommended by Patti Simone, Professor in the Department of Psychology & Assistant Director of the Neuroscience Program

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The Lab Rat Chronicles: A Neuroscientist Reveals Life Lessons from the Planet’s Most Successful Mammals
by Kelly Lambert, PhD
★★★☆☆ 3.79

What can the common laboratory rat tell us about being human? According to behavioral neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, a whole lot. Her 25-year career conducting experiments that involve rats has led her to a surprising conclusion: Through their adaptive strategies and good habits, these unassuming little animals can teach some essential lessons about how we, as humans, can lead successful lives. From emotional resilience and a strong work ethic to effective parenting and staying healthy, the lab rat is an unlikely but powerful role model for us all.

“This is a very readable book highlighting major findings from animal studies related to human behavior, such as neuroplasticity and learning, neuroeconomics and investments, and social diplomacy and family values.” - Dr. Simone

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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carryrou
★★★★☆ 4.38

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and goldrush frenzy of Silicon Valley.

“An amazing story. Hard to believe it’s true.” - Dr. Simone

“I don’t read a lot of page turners. I often find myself unable to put a book down -but they’re not the kinds of books that would keep most people glued to their chairs. Still, I recently found myself reading a book so compelling that I couldn’t turn away.” - Bill Gates

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How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
by Michael Pollan
★★★★☆ 4.17

Could psychedelic drugs in fact improve the lives of many people? Diving deep into this extraordinary world and putting himself forward as a guinea-pig, Michael Pollan has written a remarkable history of psychedelics and a compelling portrait of the new generation of scientists fascinated by the implications of these drugs. How to Change Your Mind is a report from what could very well be the future of human consciousness.

“Actually, he has many great books. This is the most recent and it’s about his exploration of the effects of different hallucinogenic drugs.” - Dr. Simone

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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
★★★★☆ 4.34

Factfulness, Professor of International Health and a man who makes data sing, Hans Rosling, together with his two long collaborators Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens and reveals the ten instincts that distort our perspective. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most. Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world.

“A surprise on every page. This is a must read if you’re interested in public health and the true reality of the world, and even to be an informed citizen.” - Dr. Simone

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Every Note Played
by Lisa Genova
★★★★☆ 4.10

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. That was eight months ago. Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce -his divorce. Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it. When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

“Actually, all of her books are outstanding. Genova is trained in neuroscience, so even though her books are fiction, they are compelling stories that are not unrealistic.” - Dr. Simone


  • Touching a Nerve: Our Brains, Our Selves by Patricia Churchland
  • The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku

Recommended by Eric Tillman, Fletcher Jones Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior
by Leonard Mlodinow
★★★★☆ 4.07

Employing his trademark wit and lucid, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process, he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.

“A nice balance of popular science but also with some scientific depth. Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist, which demonstrates how multidisciplinary the field of neuroscience is.” - Dr. Tillman

Recommended by Lindsay Halladay, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology

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Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures
by Eric R. Kandel
★★★★☆ 4.17

Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this new book, neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, whose remarkable scientific career and deep interest in art give him a unique perspective, demonstrates how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning. Kandel illustrates how reductionism -the distillation of larger scientific or aesthetic concepts into smaller, more tractable components- has been used by scientists and artists alike to pursue their respective truths. He draws on his Nobel Prize -winning work revealing the neurobiological underpinnings of learning and memory in sea slugs to shed light on the complex workings of the mental processes of higher animals.

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Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives
by Dean Buonomano
★★★☆☆ 3.83

With its trillions of connections, the human brain is more beautiful and complex than anything we could ever build, but it’s far from perfect. Or memory is unreliable; we can’t multiply large sums in our heads; advertising manipulates our judgement; we tend to distrust people who are different from us; supernatural believes and superstitions are hard to shake; we prefer instant gratification to long-term gain; and what we presume to be rational decisions are often anything but. Drawing on striking examples and fascinating studies, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano illuminates the causes and consequences of these “bugs” in terms of the brain’s innermost workings and their evolutionary purposes. He then goes one step further, examining how our brains function -and malfunction- in the digital, predator-free, information-saturated, special effects- addled world that we have built for ourselves. Along the way, Brain Bugs gives us the tools to hone our cognitive strengths while recognizing our inherent weaknesses.

Recommended by Laura Cocas, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology

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Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development
by Christiane Nusslein-Volhard
★★★☆☆ 3.81

As the author leads us from laboratory research to its applications in human beings, we also come to understand why children look like their parents, how an embryonic cell knows to become an eye rather than an eyelash, and other incredible influences that result in variety in life. Complete with her own hand-drawn illustrations, Coming to Life gives a rare opportunity to understand a Nobel Prize -winner’s passion for science in concise, understandable language.

Recommended by Nicholas Tran, Associate Professor, in the Departments of both Mathematics & Computer Science

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Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
by António Damásio
★★★★☆ 3.97

Since Descartes famously proclaimed, “I think, therefore I am,” science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person’s true being. Even modern neuroscience has tended, until recently, to concentrate on the cognitive aspects of brain functions, disregarding emotions. This attitude began to change with the publication of Descartes’ Error in 1995. António Damásio -”one of the world’s leading neurologists”- challenged traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this wonderfully engaging book, Damásio takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior.

“Antonio Damasio, a neurologist, argues convincingly against the dichotomy of mind/body and provides case studies suggesting that they form a mutually interacting ensemble. I found it quite surprising and interesting.” - Dr. Tran

Recommended by Erick Ramirez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy

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Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness
by Daniel C. Dennett
★★★☆☆ 3.81

Combining ideas from philosophy, artificial intelligence, and neurobiology, Daniel Dennett leads the reader on a fascinating journey of inquiry, exploring such intriguing possibilities as: Can any of us really know what is going on in someone else's mind? What distinguishes the human mind from the minds of animals, especially those capable of complex behavior? If such animals, for instance, were magically given the power of language, would their communities evolve an intelligence as subtly discriminating as ours? Dennett addresses these questions from an evolutionary perspective. Beginning with the macromolecules of DNA and RNA, the author shows how, step-by-step, animal life moved from the simple ability to respond to frequently recurring environmental conditions to much more powerful ways of beating the odds, ways of using patterns of past experience to predict the future in never-before-encountered situations. Whether talking about robots whose video-camera ”eyes” give us the powerful illusion that ”there is somebody in there” or asking us to consider whether spiders are just tiny robots mindlessly spinning their webs of elegant design, Dennett is a master at finding and posing questions sure to stimulate and even disturb

“Dennett is Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts, a trained philosopher with a niche for not writing like one. Kinds of Minds is very accessible, interdisciplinary, and a good introduction to issues on the nature of consciousness, artificial intelligence, and philosophy of mind. His most recent book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, is a little less accessible but more rigorous.” - Dr. Ramirez

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The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease
by Marc Lewis
★★★★☆ 4.07

Through the vivid, true stories of five people who journeyed into and out of addiction, a renowned neuroscientist explains why the “disease model” of addiction is wrong and illuminates the path to recovery. Lewis reveals addiction as an unintended consequence of the brain doing what it’s supposed to do -seek pleasure and relief- in a world that’s not cooperating. As a result, most treatment based on the disease model fails. Lewis shows how treatment can be retooled to achieve lasting recovery. This is enlightening and optimistic reading for anyone who has wrestled with addiction either personally or professionally.

“Lewis is a professor of neuroscience at the Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands and has written a lot about the neuroscience of addiction. The Biology of Desire is an admittedly controversial work wherein Lewis argues that nearly all addictions are not the result of brain disease but instead normal learning” - Dr. Ramirez


  • Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion by Jesse Prinz
  • Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis by Jesse Prinz
  • How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Contact Us

Patti Simone, Director

John Birmingham, Assistant Director