Recent and upcoming publications from UW faculty include those from the Jackson School of International Studies, the Department of Psychology and the Runstad Department of Real Estate.
Four recent books from University of Washington professors cover a variety of topics including neuroscience, Chinese filial piety and the history of Irvine, California. UW News spoke with the authors to learn more about their latest articles.
Chantel Prat introduces you to your brain
In her new book, UW psychology professor Chantel Prat wants to make one thing clear right away: There is no such thing as a “normal” brain.
“The Neuroscience of You,” published this month by Dutton, is the culmination of years of research by Pratt into how our brains work — and the everyday person’s guide to why we think and act the way we do. Every human brain is made differently, and it is those differences, Prat explains, that render the traditional definition of “normal” not only useless, but also wrong.
“I wanted to talk about differences in a different way, debunking the idea of normal as a nice fixed place instead of normal as a multifaceted and different place,” said Prat. “You can’t even define ‘normal’ without understanding the ways that people are different. And within that realm, ‘different’ doesn’t have to be better or worse. There’s a reason we have so many design choices or brains that are made. Different types of brains excel in some of the different environments we put them in. .”
The book is organized into two parts: brain structure and brain function. And within these sections there are chapters dedicated to the brain’s two hemispheres and chemistry, for example, as well as sections that delve into how our brains adapt to situations; focus on the different types of information they are bombarded with; and it affects how we communicate with other people. That piece of cooperation is important, Prat writes in the book, because two people can get along in swimming – or not so much – because of the part and structure of their brains.
“The problem is that our natural way of understanding others is through ‘modeling’ – a process in which our brain uses the programs we would use if we were doing the same process. But if the brain of the person you’re trying to understand doesn’t work like yours, your assumptions about why they behave in a certain way may be wrong,” Prat said.
Prat draws heavily on decades of research – her own, and that of others, including UW staff such as Andrea Stocco (her husband), Patricia Kuhl and Jonathan Kanter in psychology; and Rajesh Rao in computer science and engineering. He also writes personal anecdotes in the text and footnotes and offers a series of questions and puzzles to help readers gain insight into their brains. Prat invites readers to dive deeper by visiting his website and participating in his ongoing research through the types of puzzles he presents in the book.
Prat said he wanted to write a book that was more specific than the usual “one size fits all” book about neuroscience and accessible to all.
For more information, contact Prat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paula Holmes-Eber was diagnosed with asthma at the age of two, but may have had the condition since birth. He spent his childhood in and out of the hospital. Unable to get out of bed, he fantasized about traveling the world one day.
Holmes-Eber is currently an affiliate professor in the Jackson School of International Studies. More than 10 years ago, he cycled around the world with his family to raise awareness and money for clean air and asthma. Holmes-Eber and her husband, Lorenz Eber, documented the 480-day journey in “Breathtaking: How One Family Traveled the World of Clean Air and Asthma.”
“Breathe” follows the Ebers and their two daughters, homeschooled by their parents, as they travel 9,332 miles on bicycles. The family raised $65,000 for World Bike for Breath, a non-profit organization focused on encouraging people to travel by bike and promoting clean air. They are the only family recorded to complete a full circumnavigation of the world by bicycle.
The journey took the Ebers across four continents – Europe, Asia, Australia and North America – and through 24 countries. Holmes-Eber said Mongolia was the highlight of the trip. As a nomadic people, Mongolians are often forced by foreign countries to remain sedentary. But that’s not the case anymore.
“In the center of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, there are about 10 blocks of buildings,” Holmes-Eber said. “As soon as you get out of the center, the whole city is full of tents. People living all over the world, they still roam around with their animals. We had to live in tents with other Mongolian families. I was just very impressed that they kept their culture and lifestyle clean and protected it.”
Still, Holmes-Eber said more work needs to be done. People all over the world are living with high levels of pollution and poor air quality, despite the increase in diseases.
“The number of people with asthma has increased,” he said. “In fact, all types of lung diseases are on the rise. I thought this book could push that issue, raise awareness and connect people to the truth we are receiving. “
This book was published in June by Falcon.
For more information, contact Holmes-Eber at email@example.com.
From country to campus to community: The birth of the city of Irvine
The Southern California suburb of Irvine is home to over 300,000 people, hundreds of corporate headquarters and the University of California campus with a 21-acre park in the middle.
More than 60 years ago, the establishment of that campus led to the development that would transform what was an agricultural area into the sprawling city it is today.
H. Pike Oliver, affiliate instructor of real estate at UW, and co-author Michael Stockstill explain that history in their new book, “Transforming the Irvine Ranch: Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson and The Big Plan.” What began as a 110,000-acre property assembled by James Irvine from Spanish and Mexican land grants in the 110,000 century grew into the site of the UC campus and community planned by scholars in the 1960s.
“The great success at Irvine Ranch began at a time when there was a strong interest in creating alternatives to the city that exploded in the United States in the 1950s,” Oliver said. “My co-author and I thought it was important to tell the story of how this great and successful example of planned development came to be.”
With a professional background in urban planning, Oliver has worked in planned communities since the 1970s, including at the Irvine Company, which led the planning and development of Irvine Ranch. In telling a brief history of the city of Irvine, Oliver and Stockstill focus as much on the changes in the country as on the people who brought about the changes. This includes the competing interests of the Irvine family and the Irvine Company executives, as well as conflicts with other environmental groups and environmental activists.
The UC system, which promotes a community organized by professionals, features extensively, especially in the chapter titled “Inclusions, Exclusions and the Campus That Never Was.”
“Not all of the imagined communities around UC Irvine have come to pass,” the authors write. “Meanwhile, the university has been an important factor in attracting residents and business to Irvine Ranch.”
This book was published in June by Routledge.
For more information, contact Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exploring the origins and evolution of Chinese filial piety
In “The Evolution of Chinese Filiality – Insights from the Neurosciences,” recently published by Routledge, Deborah Porter brings a different approach to analyzing China’s ancient history.
Porter, a professor in the Jackson School of International Studies, uses social neuroscience, cultural evolution, cognitive archeology and historical research to explore the evolution of child divinity.
Often attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius, the divinity of the child is a profound honoring of the lives of past generations. In his book, Porter argues that the concept of duality arose out of an emotional structure inherited from the ancestors, starting with the early Chinese farmers and their relationship to the stars above.
Porter begins by asking why Confucius sees a boy’s son as one who is suffering from emotional distress to the point that he can no longer participate in life. Borrowing the neuropsychological concept of “complicated grief,” Porter looks at the evolutionary context that may be prominent in relational relationships.
“I think neuroscience opened my mind to understanding how our brain processes are connected to our nervous system,” said Porter.
This observation allowed Porter to see a significant connection between the Neolithic inhabitants and the constellation in the sky, the Turtle. This relationship may be responsible for Confucius’ forbidden relationships. For more than 1,000 years, the appearance of the Turtle in the sky has been associated with the beginning of agricultural activities in spring.
The constellation was respected, Porter said, and acted as a member of the community because of its integrity. However, due to gradual changes in the movement of the earth’s axis over the generations, the constellation eventually moved. People couldn’t explain why the Turtle didn’t show up at the beginning of the season. They were embarrassed, thinking that the constellation was reluctant to do their jobs.
“That’s the core of the concept,” Porter said. “The worship of the Confucian child can be understood if we return to the problematic relationship in the Crying Turtle. I establish a line that traces the evolution of the Chinese nervous system and how this system influenced the creation of Chinese culture to explain Confucius’ vision of the son.
For more information, contact Porter at email@example.com.
Tag(s): Chantel Prat • College of Arts & Science • College of the Built Environment • Deborah Lynn Porter • Department of Psychology • H. Pike Oliver • Jackson School of International Studies • Paula Holmes-Eber • Runstad Department of Real Estate