The Brain: The Story of You
S 2018


Your brain shapes your life and your life shapes your brain.  Your genes (genotype) and microenvironment (epigenetic) control the structure and function of your neurons, neuronal synapses, and brain size and shape. Using neuroscientist David Eagleman’s The Brain: The Story of You (2015), this SDG will explore the wonders of the human brain to discover the ultimate story of us, namely how and why we feel and think the way we do. It has been stated that "Eagelman wants to make us more conscious..." (NY Times) We will consider questions such as why our brains need other people, how we make decisions, and how technology is changing what it means to be human.  We will learn how genes regulate brain expression and beyond. We will explore how identical twins (monozygotic twins) present profoundly different neurodegenerative diseases and disorders.  Eagleman's book is the companion book for a PBS series of the same name (aired in 2015). This course is designed to appeal to scientists and curious non-scientists alike.  

Weekly Topics

1.  Who am I?

2.  Where did I come from? (Evolution of primate brains)

3.  How do genes regulate neurons, neuronal synapses, patterns and neuronal functions?

4.  What is reality? and How do gene mutations (misspellings) cause brain dysfunctions such as autism? 

5.  How does the environment influence brain gene expression (epigenetic controls)?

6.  Who is in control?

7.  Explore the relationship between genes and brain diseases and disorders

8.  How do I decide? What is the physiology of choice?

9.  How does the brain "read" faces?

10. Why do I need you? 

11. Who will we be? What is the future of the human brain?

12. Will artificial intelligence, robotics, and the application of CRISPR/Cas9 technology impact the evolution of           the human brain?

13. From genotype to phenotype to environmental factors = the human condition

14. Conclusion and wrap-up


David Eagleman, The Brain: The Story of You (2015); and PBS THE BRAIN with David Eagleman (2015)

ADDITIONAL READINGS: Dana Foundation, Genetics of the Brain (2016); Genes and the Brain (NINDS, 2017); Know Your Brain: Brain Basics (; How do we hear? NIDCD (; The Neurochemistry of Music by Mona Chanda and Daniel Levitin (2013) Trends in Cognitive  Sciences 17(4):179-193.

Recommended: "Your Brain: A User's Guide 100 Things You Never Knew. National Geographic, 2018.