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  1. 3.2 hrs • 9/1/2016 • Unabridged

    Fifty years ago, neuroscientists thought that a mature brain was fixed like a fly in amber, unable to change. Today, we know that our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lifetimes. This concept of neuroplasticity has captured the imagination of a public eager for self-improvement — and has inspired countless Internet entrepreneurs who peddle dubious “brain training” games and apps. In this book, Moheb Costandi offers a concise and engaging overview of neuroplasticity for the general listener, describing how our brains change continuously in response to our actions and experiences. Costandi discusses key experimental findings, and describes how our thinking about the brain has evolved over time. He explains how the brain changes during development, and the “synaptic pruning” that takes place before brain maturity. He shows that adult brains can grow new cells (citing, among many other studies, research showing that sexually mature male canaries learn a new song every year). He describes the kind of brain training that can bring about improvement in brain function. It’s not gadgets and games that promise to “rewire your brain” but such sustained cognitive tasks as learning a musical instrument or a new language. (Costandi also notes that London cabbies increase their gray matter after rigorous training in their city’s complicated streets.) He tells how brains compensate after stroke or injury; describes addiction and pain as maladaptive forms of neuroplasticity; and considers brain changes that accompany childhood, adolescence, parenthood, and aging. Each of our brains is custom-built. Neuroplasticity is at the heart of what makes us human.

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    3.2 hrs • 9/1/16 • Unabridged
  2. 6.6 hrs • 6/9/2015 • Unabridged

    The mere mention of red hair conjures vivid images and provokes strong reactions. Popular stereotypes of redheaded women range from the fiery-tempered vixen and the penitent prostitute—Mary Magdalene is often portrayed in art as a redhead—to the fun-loving scatterbrain Lucille Ball. Red-haired men, meanwhile are consistently associated with either the savage barbarian or the redheaded clown. But why? Red: A History of the Redhead is the first book to chronicle red hair and redheadedness from prehistory to present day. As both intrepid cultural detective and compelling storyteller, Jacky Colliss Harvey weaves a fascinating history beginning with the moment the redheaded gene made its way out of Africa with the early human diaspora. She goes on to trace red hair in the ancient world, the intolerance manifested against it as an indicator of Jewishness across medieval Europe, red hair as the height of fashion in Renaissance England, the redheaded “stunner” in Pre-Raphaelite art and the paintings of the Impressionists, and into the modern age, from its symbolism and adoration in popular culture to “gingerism,” perhaps the last unacknowledged from of discrimination. More than a book for redheads, Red is both an exploration of red hair as “other” and a celebration of every aspect of its unique social and scientific heritage, at a time when it has never before been so frequently in the news or played such a prominent role in our visual culture.

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    6.6 hrs • 6/9/15 • Unabridged
  3. 7.3 hrs • 5/19/2015 • Unabridged

    With their large brains, sturdy physique, sophisticated tools, and hunting skills, Neanderthals are the closest known relatives to humans. Approximately 200,000 years ago, as modern humans began to radiate out from their evolutionary birthplace in Africa, Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe—descendants of a much earlier migration of the African genus Homo. But when modern humans eventually made their way to Europe 45,000 years ago, Neanderthals suddenly vanished. Ever since the first Neanderthal bones were identified in 1856, scientists have been vexed by the question, why did modern humans survive while their evolutionary cousins went extinct? The Invaders musters compelling evidence to show that the major factor in the Neanderthals’ demise was direct competition with newly arriving humans. Drawing on insights from the field of invasion biology, Pat Shipman traces the devastating impact of a growing human population: reduction of Neanderthals’ geographic range, isolation into small groups, and loss of genetic diversity. But modern humans were not the only invaders who competed with Neanderthals for big game. Shipman reveals fascinating confirmation of humans’ partnership with the first domesticated wolf-dogs soon after Neanderthals first began to disappear. This alliance between two predator species, she hypothesizes, made possible an unprecedented degree of success in hunting large Ice Age mammals—a distinct and ultimately decisive advantage for humans over Neanderthals at a time when climate change made both groups vulnerable.

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    The Invaders

    7.3 hrs • 5/19/15 • Unabridged
  4. 13.4 hrs • 9/1/2012 • Unabridged

    A genetic portrait of America In this fascinating exploration, geneticist Bryan Sykes turns his sights on the United States, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. From the blue-blooded pockets of old-WASP New England to the vast tribal lands of the Navajo, Bryan Sykes takes us on a historical genetic tour, interviewing genealogists, geneticists, anthropologists, and everyday Americans with compelling ancestral stories.

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    13.4 hrs • 9/1/12 • Unabridged
  5. 10.2 hrs • 12/15/2006 • Unabridged

    WASPs finally get their due in this stimulating history by one of the world’s leading geneticists. Saxons, Vikings, and Celts is the most illuminating book yet to be written about the genetic history of Britain and Ireland. Through a systematic, ten-year DNA survey of more than ten thousand volunteers, Bryan Sykes has traced the true genetic makeup of British Islanders and their descendants. This historical travelogue and genetic tour of the fabled isles, which includes accounts of the Roman invasions and Norman conquests, takes readers from the Pontnewydd cave in North Wales, where a 300,000-year-old tooth was discovered, to the resting place of “The Red Lady” of Paviland, whose anatomically modern body was dyed with ochre by her grieving relatives nearly 29,000 years ago. A perfect work for anyone interested in the genealogy of England, Scotland, or Ireland, Saxons, Vikings, and Celts features a chapter specifically addressing the genetic makeup of those people in the United States who have descended from the British Isles.

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    Saxons, Vikings, and Celts

    10.2 hrs • 12/15/06 • Unabridged
  6. 10.2 hrs • 11/1/2005 • Unabridged

    We have long attributed man’s violent, aggressive, competitive nature to his animal ancestry. But what if we are just as given to cooperation, empathy, and morality by virtue of our genes? What if our behavior actually makes us apes? What kind of apes are we? From a scientist and writer E. O. Wilson has called “the world authority on primate social behavior” comes a fascinating look at the most provocative aspects of human nature—power, sex, violence, kindness, and morality—through our two closest cousins in the ape family. For nearly twenty years, Frans de Waal has worked with both the famously aggressive chimpanzee and the lesser-known egalitarian, erotic, matriarchal bonobo, two species whose DNA is nearly identical to that of humans. De Waal shows the range of human behavior through his study of chimpanzees and bonobos, drawing from their personalities, relationships, power struggles, and high jinks important insights about our human behavior. The result is an engrossing and surprising narrative that reveals what their behavior can teach us about our own nature.

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    Our Inner Ape

    10.2 hrs • 11/1/05 • Unabridged
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