Dick Swaab - We Are Our Brains. From the womb to Alzheimer’s
It has long been assumed in the West that upbringing determines who a child will become. The negative side to this conviction is that everything that can go wrong in a person’s life can be blamed on the parents and, in a broader sense, on society. Similarly, this way of thinking suggests that many illnesses result from an unhealthy lifestyle and are therefore the patient’s own fault.
Dick Swaab presents evidence that contradicts such beliefs. All that we are, and the diseases that will affect our brains, are lodged in our neurons long before we are born. The influence of upbringing or therapy is minimal. Only the mother’s guilt is left intact; smoking, drinking and using drugs can seriously damage a healthy embryo.
Swaab does believe, however, that research into the functioning of the brain and efforts to develop medical treatments that can prevent or even cure diseases of old age like Alzheimer’s remain crucial. Making use of his extensive international contacts, he points to China, where he regularly resides as a visiting professor, as a country in which the government is actively stimulating research into the brain and DNA processes.
Dick Swaab is Professor Emeritus of Neurobiology at the University of Amsterdam. For thirty years he was the director of the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research. His work on sex differences in the brain brought him international fame and he has published in a wide range of media, including Nature.
- ‘We Are Our Brains is a popular science book that’s simply impossible to put down. The combination of personal observations and anecdotes, scientific information and succinct case notes holds the reader’s attention throughout each of its entertaining chapters. That is no mean feat.’ – de Volkskrant