Idiot Brain: What Your Head is Really Up To, A Review

Your brain is the most remarkable thing about you because it makes you you.  So, when Dean Burnett, Ph.D. chose to describe all that the brain does to make you amazing, he did it in a uniquely humane and entertaining way.  His popular science book Idiot Brain: What Your Head is Really Up To is well-researched, well-written, and highly recommended for anyone interested in learning about how the brain works, fails to work, and even works against you.

What makes Idiot Brain so wonderful is that it’s not a simple, linear, boring discussion of the brain with explanations starting from a description of a neuron and developing into more complex behaviors (as a textbook often does).  Instead, Idiot Brain presents a comedic discussion of the brain that usually centers around the stranger things the brain does, especially the processes that make us do peculiar things.  For example, why do we see a scary monster in the doorway when it’s just a bathrobe hanging on the door?  And why is there always room for dessert at the end of a huge meal?  And why did I just come into this room anyway?

“The brain is a terrifyingly complex tangle of connections and links, like a ball of Christmas-tree lights the size of the known universe.”

Thankfully, Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist, who moonlights as a comedian and writes for The Guardian, so he can dissect the brain and its functions in accurate yet accessible ways, with quips and analogies to ease the examination.  I encourage anyone with a brain to read Idiot Brain because the brain is both extremely impressive, but also a bit stupid.



For more reviews on books about the brain and neuroscience-related topics, check out our Brain Books!

Kate Fehlhaber

Kate graduated from Scripps College in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience, completing the cellular and molecular track with honors. As an undergraduate, she studied long-term plasticity in models of Parkinson’s disease in a neurobiology lab at University of California, Los Angeles. She continued this research as lab manager before entering the University of Southern California Neuroscience graduate program in 2011 and then transferring to UCLA in 2013. She completed her PhD in 2017, where her research focused on understanding the communication between neurons in the eye. Kate founded Knowing Neurons in 2011, and her passion for creative science communication has continued to grow.