Books

D. E. Presti. (2016). Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey.  New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

D. E. Presti. (2018). Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal.  New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

                            

I view these books as two steps in a boundless odyssey.

Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey presents brain science in a rigorous yet easy-to-understand manner, focusing on concepts of interest to all readers.  Comprehensive enough to use as a textbook in a college class (this framework has introduced thousands of students at UC Berkeley to neuroscience), it is at the same time meant for any and all readers interested in learning about the human brain - getting quickly and concisely to the main points essential for understanding the structure and function of nervous systems and brains.  From molecules and cells to mind and consciousness, the known and the mysterious are discussed in the context of the grand history of modern biology.

Contemporary science provides us with a physical description of reality that has stunning beauty and powerful explanatory utility, and the biological sciences fit nicely into this framework.  Life is understood in terms of molecular components, complex nervous systems and brains developed following several billion years of evolutionary refinement, and consciousness is thought to somehow emerge from the physical processes of cellular life at a relatively late stage of the evolutionary scene.  Is this the full story?

Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal picks up the story at the point where Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience leaves off, presenting one particular direction for ongoing exploration.  The basic hypothesis is that mind and consciousness are more mysterious, interesting, and weird than we are currently able to describe within the existing framework of biophysical science.  And that in order to arrive at the next level of deeper insight in a science of consciousness, radical adjustments will be required in our metaphysical worldview.  While this can be conducted in a rigorously empirical manner, an essential step is appreciation of the inextricable enfolding or interdependent co-creation of mind and world, a step that was excluded throughout the development of modern science over the last several centuries.  Such an enfolding is hinted at in some interpretations of quantum mechanics, and is central to the worldviews of many spiritual traditions.  Mind Beyond Brain proposes to explore this in the context of the contemporary dialogue between science and Buddhism in a way that is generalizable to building bridges between science and spiritual, religious, and shamanic traditions more broadly.

I believe the most exciting things in brain-mind science are yet to come, and that the science of consciousness – or more broadly, the scientific exploration of who we are as sentient beings and how we are related to the rest of what we consider to be physical reality – is poised for radical expansion into new domains of inquiry.  In addition, I see this as more than simply a profoundly interesting academic, intellectual, or scientific question, but one that has implications for every aspect of how we operate in the world.  How we define mind really matters, and what we choose to think may matter more than we can presently imagine.

Endorsements for Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal (2018)

“Beginning with the unsettling title and continuing through chapters taking an empirical approach to exploring a variety of anomalous psychological phenomena, Mind Beyond Brain asks the reader to set aside preconceptions and deeply-held assumptions in order to better investigate the depths of consciousness. An engaging read, sure to give a healthy intellectual prod to even the most committed physical materialist.”
       
Rich Ivry, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of California, Berkeley

"Mind Beyond Brain embraces and celebrates the natural sciences and their materialist frameworks but also suggests that our understanding of the natural almost certainly needs to be expanded, greatly, and that the physicalist frameworks may not be the final answer to our deepest and most difficult questions about subjectivity, mind, or consciousness. Presti is a perfect narrator, host, and guide here. He strikes a wonderful balance between embracing and celebrating the advances of the sciences and wanting them to go further still."
        Jeffrey J. Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought, Rice University

"This book could open important doors for any thinking person today. It courageously provides important philosophical critiques of the dominant physical materialist worldview, along with a great deal of well-documented, challenging counter-evidence drawn from all-too-neglected fields of psychological research. It is a compelling read for anyone who realizes that the acknowledgement of the active role of 'mind' (whatever it is, we all have one, and we need to get to know it better!) in nature is indispensable for the revolutionary paradigm shift that science requires to break through its current deadlock, presiding over the great extinction facing our planet and our sentient selves."
        Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Columbia University

"Mind Beyond Brain explores the implications of empirical evidence challenging the prevailing view that the mind is simply a function of the brain. This timely book places the issue within the ongoing dialogue between science and Buddhism, and reinstates the spirit of open-minded, radical empiricism that has always characterized science and Buddhism at their best. With their discussions of compelling evidence, examined with rigorous logic, the eminently qualified authors of this book point the way forward to catalyzing the first true revolution in the mind sciences."
        B. Alan Wallace, President, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies

“Fascinating, provocative new book challenging the prevailing brains-produce-mind paradigm, edited by my Berkeley colleague David Presti.”
         Michael Pollan, Professor of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley;
         author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Botany of Desire, Cooked, Food Rules,
         How to Change Your Mind,
and others... [tweeted at @michaelpollan]


Endorsements for Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey (2016)

“A true 'brain-mind odyssey,' a journey that does not overwhelm with facts and experimental results, but rather takes a first-principles approach to build a picture of brain function in a truly interdisciplary manner.  Presti draws on his vast knowledge of the biological and cognitive sciences, blended together with nuggets of history and anthropology, to reveal and embrace the mysteries of the mind.  Presti’s lectures are legendary among Berkeley undergraduates; in Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience, he provides a naturalist's approach to the neurosciences, synthesizing these teachings into an accessible and engaging text.  A tour de force."
        Rich Ivry, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of California, Berkeley

“Be prepared to be awe struck and endlessly inspired by reading this tour of the human mind and brain with legendary teacher and neuroscientist David Presti. As you learn about the great discoveries of neuroscience―the chemicals, genes, neurons, and brain structures that make us up―you will find answers to timeless questions. What are the origins of life? Why do humans take drugs? What are the emotions? What is consciousness? Who are we? There could be no better guidebook than this endlessly fascinating and important book.”
         Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

“This book is a gem. It is a lucid survey of the whole majestic sweep of contemporary neuroscience, written for the non-medical reader. At the same time, it is sprinkled liberally with original insights that will provide much food for thought even for specialists. It will also make an excellent textbook for any introductory course in neuroscience.”
         V. S. Ramachandran, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego

"Check out David Presti's new book, which has become my indispensable go-to primer on neuroscience."
         Michael Pollan, Professor of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley;
         author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Botany of Desire, Cooked, Food Rules,
         How to Change Your Mind,
and others... [tweeted at @michaelpollan]


Past Book Events


D.G. Wills Books: 7461 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA  (February 23, 2019)

Books, Inc.: 1491 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA  (February 12, 2019)

Books, Inc.: 1491 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA  (May 19, 2016)

University Press Books: 2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA  (April 20, 2016)