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Prof Matthew Cobb: Out Of Your Head… Out Of Your Mind

  • Catch up now on Prof Matthew Cobb, talking live at Berwins Salon North, March 2022
  • FREE. If you are able to, we would greatly appreciate any donations to our arts charity.

Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, where his research focuses on the sense of smell, insect behaviour and the history of science. His books include The Egg & Sperm Race and acclaimed accounts of the French Resistance during the Second World War and the liberation of Paris in 1944.

His latest book, The Idea of the Brain, seeks to illuminate our quest to understand the most mysterious object in the universe: the human brain.

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The Idea of the Brain by Matthew Cobb
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The Idea of The Brain was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2020. It’s the story of our quest to understand the most mysterious object in the universe: the human brain.

Today we tend to picture it as a computer. Earlier scientists thought about it in their own technological terms: as a telephone switchboard, or a clock, or all manner of fantastic mechanical or hydraulic devices. Could the right metaphor unlock the its deepest secrets once and for all?

Galloping through centuries of wild speculation and ingenious, sometimes macabre anatomical investigations, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb reveals how we came to our present state of knowledge. Our latest theories allow us to create artificial memories in the brain of a mouse, and to build AI programmes capable of extraordinary cognitive feats. A complete understanding seems within our grasp. But to make that final breakthrough, we may need a radical new approach. At every step of our quest, Cobb shows that it was new ideas that brought illumination. Where, he asks, might the next one come from? What will it be?