I've been thoroughly enjoying the responses coming in -- via email and the comments area here -- to the snippets from the book that I've posted thus far. I'll post something from the attention chapter shortly, but in the meantime, I wanted to start addressing some of the issues that people seem to be raising.
Here's one item that came up a number of times: people seem to have assumed that because Mind Wide Open is a book about the brain that it's almost by definition a book about consciousness, which understandably makes some people nervous, given how little we really understand about how consciousness works. One of the things that I did very early on in planning the book was to remove the question of consciousness -- why does the color red look red? why do emotions feel the way they do? -- from the book's agenda. These are fascinating questions, and there are some great books out there wrestling with consciousness, but you don't necessarily have to address these questions to say interesting things about how your brain works.
Think about the brain's fear system. We know quite a bit about how the brain learns to be afraid of frightening stimuli; we know the major pathways involved, and we know that that the amygdala is central to the experience; we know an increasing amount about the way fear plays tricks with our memory, etc. I can testify first hand that knowing something about the brain science here changes the way that you experience your own fear responses, mostly in a productive way. But for these insights to be useful to you, you don't necessarily need a working explanation for why being afraid feels the way it does, where the "qualia" of fear comes from. Learning to recognize the neurological patterns behind your mental life is not the same as building a theory of consciousness.
Also, for those of you keeping score, the subtitle of the book has been changed slightly. It's now: "Your brain and the neuroscience of everyday life."