Moheb Costandi

Moheb Costandi, trained as a neuroscientist, is a science writer based in London whose work has appeared in publications including Nature, Science, New Scientist, and Scientific American. He is the author of Neuroplasticity (MIT Press) and 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know.

  • Body Am I

    Body Am I

    The New Science of Self-Consciousness

    Moheb Costandi

    How the way we perceive our bodies plays a critical role in the way we perceive ourselves: stories of phantom limbs, rubber hands, anorexia, and other phenomena.

    The body is central to our sense of identity. It can be a canvas for self-expression, decorated with clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, tattoos, and piercings. But the body is more than that. Bodily awareness, says scientist-writer Moheb Costandi, is key to self-consciousness. In Body Am I, Costandi examines how the brain perceives the body, how that perception translates into our conscious experience of the body, and how that experience contributes to our sense of self. Along the way, he explores what can happen when the mechanisms of bodily awareness are disturbed, leading to such phenomena as phantom limbs, alien hands, and amputee fetishes.

    Costandi explains that the brain generates maps and models of the body that guide how we perceive and use it, and that these maps and models are repeatedly modified and reconstructed. Drawing on recent bodily awareness research, the new science of self-consciousness, and historical milestones in neurology, he describes a range of psychiatric and neurological disorders that result when body and brain are out of sync, including not only the well-known phantom limb syndrome but also phantom breast and phantom penis syndromes; body integrity identity disorder, which compels a person to disown and then amputate a healthy arm or leg; and such eating disorders as anorexia.

    Wide-ranging and meticulously researched, Body Am I (the title comes from Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra) offers new insight into self-consciousness by describing it in terms of bodily awareness.

    • Hardcover $27.95
  • Neuroplasticity

    Neuroplasticity

    Moheb Costandi

    The real story of how our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lifetimes—with or without “brain training.”

    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 reader, 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.

    • Paperback $16.95