In The Human Brain: Its Capacities and Functions, a remarkably clear and fascinating work written in 1963, the noted scientist and writer Isaac Asimov investigates how the human brain organizes and controls the total functioning of the individual. Asimov deals not only with the physical structure of the two giant cerebral hemispheres which distinguish us from other animal life, but with the brains great potential, the full extent of which we have yet to explore. The book is a companion piece to The Human Body (another masterpiece by Isaac Asimov), but contrary to the aforementioned, which was primarily examining the anatomy of the human body and the way different physiological processes occur, this time the book is more concerned about psychological aspects of the human existence, and the body's functions, which regulate the process. The functioning of hormones, glands, the nervous system, our senses and reflexes, which are all controlled by the brain, are explained with the clarity for which this author is noted.
Although Isaac Asimov was rather less comfortable in writing this book than he was with the earlier one, because he himself knew less about the subject, it is still a great book that covers the ground quite thoroughly and does a good job of it. In The Human Brain the author carefully examines the concept of conditioned reflexes and their connection to the external stimuli and experience. It is evident that the famous Russian scientist Pavlov who performed his experiments on reflexes, and created a solid foundation for the future of this filed in the whole science of psychology influenced many of Asimov ideas depicted in the book. A great part of the book is devoted to Isaac Asimov investigating and summing up the distinction between humans and animals.
The writer tries to identify and distinct the notions of education, learning, and training. He notes that education is not the same as training, even though training may be one of the ingredients of education. A person who has been taught to repair refrigerators, drive an automobile, or play basketball can be said to have received training, but such training per se does not constitute education. Similarly, even though learning is a necessary ingredient of education, not all forms of learning lead to education. Monkeys, birds, and rats can learn from experience, and they can even be trained, but we would not say they can be educated.
This is probably because they lack the form of intelligence unique to human beings that is crucial for learning the kinds of things that are central to "educated ness." Isaac Asimov resumes all of his thoughts with the following statement: "Man has certain attributes that no animal has. He has the capability to remember the past in great detail, to foresee possible futures in almost equal detail, to imagine alternatives, to weigh and judge in the light of past experience, to deduce consequences from premises and to base his behavior upon all of this by an act of 'free will'... ." The author believes that all of the above occurs only due to the existence of the gray matter the human brain. Even though The Human Brain is a great book, there are, indeed, a few places where a careful observer can detect the authors own unfamiliarity with what he is talking about. Asimov often states that there is no matter in the universe that is more complex than human brain.
The writer forgot that the brain, and presumably most of its details, is coded by only a fraction of an individuals DNA. Therefore, it would be more accurate to say that DNA is the most complex arrangement of matter known in the universe. In conclusion I would like to say that despite The Human Brain is now a little too out-of-date (the scientific progress has gone far away since 1963), the book is still a really amazing work. In this book the author tries to narrate the capabilities of human brains and its phenomenal, and eventually does it with a great simplicity. The sophisticated terms and concepts of neuroscience are explained in a very popular manner. I would surely recommend this book not only to those people who wish to get familiar with the human nature but also to those admirers of Isaac Asimov who want to discover the writer as a true scientist and researcher, not merely an author of science fiction books..