One neuron, two neurons, a million neurons! How many does it take to form an individual? There is a neurobiology to who we are, and this is demonstrated by the current scientific models. Human behavior cannot be explained by just one field, though, and one of the best things from Professor Robert Sapolsky’s course is the interdisciplinary focus, which attempts to explain human behavior from a combination of nature and nurture.

Dr. Sapolsky is my favorite lecturer from The Great Courses! He is intense yet casual in a way that makes a half hour of instruction feel like a two-way conversation. I feel like more than just a member of the audience, like his humor and examples are directed at me.

The lectures proceed in the following fashion:

  • One neuron, two neurons, a million neurons, specifically in regions of the brain like the frontal cortex that deal with emotion and behavior like the frontal cortex, which “makes you do the harder thing” by postponing gratification.
  • How the brain regulates hormones and how hormones influence the brain.
  • Natural selection and the brain, and the evolution of genes that affect the brain.
  • The environment and hormones, evolution, and genes through the study of animals.
  • Putting it all together – How neurobiology, neuroendocrinology, evolution, genetics, and ethology help explain aggression.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the course, the lectures occasionally feel disjointed, or at least, somewhat abstract. If you’re interested in the scientific details, be aware that Dr. Sapolsky glosses over most terms and explanations with a hand-wave, which contributes to the accessibility of the course, but often leaves more unanswered questions.

What if all our individual differences will eventually be explained by neurobiology? At what point does a biological abormality affect the essence of a person? Who is just a little weird, and who is neurologically impaired? For myself, the more we learn, the more questions I have!

Highly recommended for fans of neurobiology and those who enjoy contemplating the self!