Leslie Brothers, M.D.
I graduated from Harvard College in 1976 and Duke Medical School in 1980. I had specialty training in psychiatry at UCLA after a medical internship and was board certified in 1987.
In the 1980's and early 1990's I set up and carried out studies of single neuron responses to social stimuli in the amygdala region in monkeys. I published experimental papers and, probably more significant, some theoretical papers outlining my ideas about the organization of the "social brain." I made occasional contributions to reference works on the subject of emotion. This line of research is summarized in my 1997 book, "Friday's Footprint" (see Publications).
I trained in psychoanalysis at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, where I did some teaching and was a candidate for a number of years. I held various faculty positions in the psychiatry department at UCLA until 2000. I now support myself through private practice.
I have been interested in the role neuroscience plays in popular culture. An analysis of this role, and a new solution to the mind-brain problem, are the subjects of my second book, "Mistaken Identity" (see Publications).
Finally, I studied Aikido, a Japanese martial art, for many years and hold the rank of ni-dan. I recently began to learn capoeira, a Brazilian martial art.
I used the fictional character Robinson Crusoe as a metaphor for the isolated-brain approach taken by traditional neuroscience, and outlined a new, social approach to the brain and mind. The work integrates sociology (G.H. Mead's symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, and conversation analysis) with neurobiology. There are also chapters on psychoanalysis and emotion.
"A breathtaking, sweeping account of how human brain structure and
function ... have come to be shaped through the course of primate social
evolution. Brothers's case for the evolution of a 'social brain' is airtight."
The idea that neuroscience can explain human behavior is widely accepted. In this work, however, I take a critical look at how such explanations are actually constructed. Drawing on standard examples from both popular and academic sources, I show that they are, without exception, logically flawed. The flaws are not accidental but inevitable, for reasons originally put forward by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. There are also hidden interests contributing to the dominance of current brain-mind accounts, such as those of the pharmaceutical industry.
Carrying forward from "Friday's Footprint," I describe the latest findings on the brain's social capacities. This emerging research area has the potential to resolve the paradoxes Wittgenstein detected, and deliver unexpected insights into the relation between mind and brain.
"Mistaken Identity is a bold, incisive, witty, provocative examination
of one of the most pressing philosophical and scientific problems of our
time, and could become a significant new rallying point in the consciousness
"This book provides a subtle and very important criticism of many
ordinary ways of understanding the relation of mind and brain."