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Summary

A leading neuroscientist offers a history of the evolution of the brain from unicellular organisms to the complexity of animals and human beings today

Renowned neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux digs into the natural history of life on earth to provide a new perspective on the similarities between us and our ancestors in deep time. This pause-resisting survey of the whole of terrestrial evolution sheds new light on how nervous systems evolved in animals, how the brain developed, and what it means to be human. 

In The Deep History of Ourselves, LeDoux argues that the key to understanding human behavior lies in viewing evolution through the prism of the first living organisms. By tracking the chain of the evolutionary timeline he shows how even the earliest single-cell organisms had to solve the same problems we and our cells have to solve each day. Along the way, LeDoux explores our place in nature, how the evolution of nervous systems enhanced the ability of organisms to survive and thrive, and how the emergence of what we humans understand as consciousness made our greatest and most horrendous achievements as a species possible.

*Includes a PDF of original reference illustrations from the text

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Joseph LeDoux (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Readers have good reason to ponder LeDoux’s concluding challenge. [A] refreshingly lucid treatment of profound questions.” (Booklist, starred review)

“Plenty of popular authors describe the history of life, but LeDoux wants readers to remember as well as enjoy, so he divides his book into short, pithy chapters, each explaining a single evolutionary advance.... Like all good educators, the author begins simply.... [An] expert history of human behavior beginning at the beginning.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"Joseph LeDoux is the major scientist leading the current important effort to delineate the brain mechanisms of emotional states. In his most recent book, The Deep History of Ourselves, LeDoux attempts to connect the survival capacity of single-celled micro-organisms to the unique human capacity for survival. This capacity is importantly mediated by our ability to think, feel, and to contemplate not only our own past and future but the past and future of humankind. This is an extraordinary book. Indeed, as LeDoux points out, it is a deep history of ourselves." (Eric R. Kandel, Kavli Professor and University Professor, Columbia University; Senior Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; author of In Search of Memory and The Age of Insight; recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine)

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  • Trebla
  • 30-09-19

Skip the first 40 chapters

Really disappointing after listening to folks LeDoux often cites in his piece like Frans de Waal, or Michael Gazzaniga- both of whom write so well using data to make a credible case and explaining the consequence. LeDoux again and again tells us his opinion, while naming many fellow scientist but so very little of actual findings. This the kind of presentation that turns off people to science.

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  • Michael
  • 04-03-20

Oversold

The author takes a long long time to make a rather simple point: emotions reflect, rather than cause the su!rvival instincts associated with them (such as freezing, increased heartbeat and flight). Interesting, I guess, but hardly worth the time he requires listeners to wait to get to it. Had he stated his thesis upfront I would have saved a tremendous amount of time spent wading through uninteresting material.

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  • carlosuseche
  • 04-10-19

Fantastic science book

Enjoyed and loved each chapter of this wonderful book. Very well written and pleasurable to read. The Deep History of Ourselves at its nutshell

3 people found this helpful

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  • Daniel Moakley
  • 19-01-21

loved it but I'm a nerd

Fascinating and unifying in my opinion. A great summary of brain evolution and incorporates the most current research to explain how emotions are necessarily conscious pattern-completions of situations we find ourselves in. Not sure what competing theories there are but this one is pretty interesting.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Steven
  • 07-05-20

This is one of the most important books I've read

This book is great. Now, I love books on the history of life as well as books on the brain and mind. This book melds the two in such enlightening ways that just about every single chapter I read is filled with insights into the synthesis of evolution and the nervous system. I can't rate this book's content any higher. I know it's a very niche subject and its not for everyone, but if your interesting in the subject matter at all, I recommend you give a try. I mean hell, if you don't like you can always return I suppose.

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  • Luc
  • 20-09-19

Will improve your understanding of the mind, evolution and consciousness

This is a solid book. Clean reasoning and unapologetically accurate. He doesn’t try to dum it down it might be challenging at points but I re-listened to a few of the chapters and in the end you understand. The begging and end are my fav parts

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  • david dunbar
  • 04-01-22

The development of minds misconceptions

Ten plus hours to get to the idea and defend the actual idea that the book wants us to understand. All of this is worth it in the end. the idea of evolutionary development of emotion is as facinating as it is important to understand. The most important thing to take away from this book is that, in science, you must separate the things you believe from the things you find.

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  • Kristin N Dion
  • 07-11-21

Illuminating and fascinating

I loved listening to this book! Self awareness is useful, and awareness of other is useful to. The web is life has always been fascinating to me, and this book helped me weave together myriad bits of wisdom that I've gathered throughout the years into a more cohesive and agile framework of understanding.