Susan Greenfield

Scientist • Writer • Broadcaster

YouTube Amazon


Susan Greenfield has written a number of popular-science books. All her publications are listed below and available to purchase online. Click the book cover or title to purchase.

a day in the life of the brain

A Day in the Life of the Brain: The Neuroscience of Consciousness from Dawn till Dusk

Love is an emotion; consciousness is a … what? We still don’t know.

Acclaimed neuroscientist Greenfield presents a new, profound and yet simple way to think about how the public becomes private: how each of us builds and experiences an entirely personal view of the world

How does a tangle of brain cells conjure up this rich experience of consciousness that occupies our every waking moment? Despite the remarkable progress that has been made in understanding the brain, consciousness still poses one of the greatest challenges to science.

From being awoken by an alarm to walking the dog, working in an open plan office to dreaming at night, in this ground-breaking book, world-renowned neuroscientist Susan Greenfield illuminates the mystery of consciousness as she traces a single day in the life of the brain. How do our minds change when we are young or old, or suffering from depression or dementia? She also introduces the tantalising notion that the answer to the enduring enigma of consciousness may be found in neuronal assemblies – a brain process that her lab at Oxford, along with others around the world, is investigating.

mind change

Mind Change: How digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains

Mind Change was published on 21st August 2014 by Random House. In Mind Change, Susan Greenfield discusses the all-pervading technologies that now surround us, and from which we derive instant information, connected identity, diminished privacy and exceptionally vivid here-and-now experiences. In her view they are creating a new environment, with vast implications, because our minds are physically adapting: being rewired. What could this mean, and how can we harness, rather than be harnessed by, our new technological milieu to create better alternatives and more meaningful lives? Using the very latest research (up to the end of 2013), Mind Change is intended to incite debate as well as yield the way forward. There is no better person to explain the situation in a way we can understand, and to offer new insights on how to improve our mental capacities and well being. On Thursday 21 August 2014,  BBC's Meet the Author, Nick Higham host met with Susan Greenfield to talk about her latest book, Mind Change.

2121: A Story for the 22nd Century

2121: A Tale from the Next Century

The futuristic world of 2121 has suffered a schism.  Humanity has been split between the ‘Others' and the Neo-Puritan, Neo-Platonic, ‘N-Ps'.  The Others are a decadent sector of society, who are ruled by their desires, instincts and every whim.  Their lifestyle is pure hedonism, they are ageless and beautiful, but this seemingly perfect existence is wholly reliant on technology left over by previous generations.  Sustained by machines, these 'ideal' humans are haplessly dependent on the creations of their ancestors.

Into this unmarked, timeless community walks Fred, the first visitor from a far-off land.  He comes from the N-Ps, his society is the polar-opposite to the Others.  They are governed by logic, revolted by the mindless, unfettered decadence of the Others.  Fred arrives to study the pleasure seeking Others.  A model N-P, Fred is initially repulsed, but as he conducts his explorations, he finds himself developing an awkwardly complicated, and potentially dangerous, relationship with his test subjects.

As Fred observes members of the ‘Dwelling’, he begins to develop complicated notions of caring and protective love.  Fred embraces their gaudy, hyperreal life of screens and implants, and in doing so, begins to change himself.

A gripping tale of an individual's spiritual struggle within this darkly complex society, Susan Greenfield's 2121 reveals a dangerously possible future, acting as a startling reminder of our gadget-dependent existence, and a warning about how this dependence could transform into a destabilising reliance.  Through Fred, we explore this potential reality and examine the battle between society, humanity, and technology.

You and Me: The Neuroscience of Identity

You and Me: The Neuroscience of Identity

Identity is a term much used yet hard to define. Perhaps for this reason, the concept has long been a favourite with philosphers, and for the very same reason has been avoided by brain scientists, - until now.

In this neurobiological exploration of identity, Greenfield briefly reviews the social perspective from finger prints, to faces, to signatures of the many ways we try to identity ourselves, - in vain. The psychiatric perspective however does offer some valuable clues that then leads to an excursion into the physical brain: the neuroscience perspective. But identity cannot just be an objective phenomenon: hence any pertinent brain phenomena have to be seen also, as they are in the follwing chapter, from an individual perspective.

Armed with the insights gained from these diverse approaches, Greenfield attempts to conceive of actual scenarios in the physical brain that would correspond to familiar examples of identity. However, given the physical brain adapts exquisitely to the environemnt, and the 21st Century environment is changing in unprecedented ways, are we facing correspondingly unprecedented changes to our identity?

ID: The Quest for Meaning in the 21st Century

ID: The Quest for Meaning in the 21st Century (2009)

Our individuality is under attack. Two huge new forces - technology and the rise in fundamentalism are, in their different ways, combining to threaten the control of our minds and the way our society functions. Never before have we needed to look so urgently at what we want for ourselves as individuals, for our children and for our future society.

This book draws on the latest findings in neuroscience to show how far we are and can be in control of the development of our brains and minds. It explores the actions we need to take to safeguard our individuality and to find the fulfilment which our current unfettered materialism cannot provide.

All this inevitably poses many questions about human nature, our past, what makes us individual, the connection between the brain and the mind and what a society of fulfilled individuals would actually mean - all of which this book attempts to answer.


Tomorrow's People

Tomorrow's People: How 21st-Century Technology is Changing the Way We Think and Feel (2003)

Tomorrow's People is an exploration of how this century is going to change not just the way we think, but also what we actually think with - our own individual minds.

How will new technologies transform the way we see the world? At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we may be standing on the brink of a mind make-over, far more cataclysmic than anything that has happened before.

As we appreciate the dynamism and sensitivity of our brain circuitry, so the prospect of directly tampering with the essence of our individuality becomes a possibility.

The Private Life of the Brain

The Private Life of the Brain (2000)

What is happening in the brain when we drink too much alcohol, get high on ecstasy or experience road rage?

Emotion, says internationally acclaimed neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, is the building block of consciousness. As our minds develop we create a personalized inner world based on our experiences. But during periods of intense emotion, such as anger, fear or euphoria, we can literally lose our mind, returning to the mental state we experienced as infants.

Challenging many preconceived notions, Susan Greenfield's groundbreaking book, The Private Life of the Brain seeks to answer one of science's most enduring mysteries: how our unique sense of self is created.

Brain Story

Brain Story: Unlocking Your Inner World of Emotions, Memories, and Desires (2001)

In this tour through the brain's workings, Susan Greenfield brings the reader right up to date on the latest theories and controversies surrounding neuroscience. From studies of the bizarre and disturbing effects of brain injuries, she tackles the questions that have baffled philosophers since antiquity.

Brain Story: Unlocking Your Inner World of Emotions, Memories, and Desires attempts to explain the current state of knowledge in the neurosciences, a discipline that has made stunning advances over the last twenty years. It explores the structure and function of the brain, the myriad of ways in which this immensely complex structure can go wrong and the ingenious methods that research scientists have used to figure out how our signal organ works.

The Human Brain: A Guided Tour

The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (1998)

Locked away remote from the rest of the body in its own custom-built casing of skull bone, with no intrinsic moving parts, the human brain remains a tantalising mystery. But now, more than ever before, we have the expertise to tackle this mystery.

The last 20 years have seen astounding progress in brain research. In The Human Brain: A Guided Tour, Susan Greenfield begins by exploring the roles of different regions of the brain. She then switches to the opposite direction and examines how certain functions, such as movement and vision, are accommodated in the brain.

She describes how a brain is made from a single fertilized egg and how the fate of the brain is traced through life, as we see how it constantly changes as a result of experience to provide the essence of a unique individual.

Journey to the Centers of the Mind

Journey to the Centers of the Mind: Toward a Science of Consciousness (1995)

How do our personalities and mental processes, our "states of consciousness", derive from a gray mass of tissue with the consistency of a soft-boiled egg? How can mere molecules constitute an idea or emotion?Some of the most important questions we can ask are about our own consciousness.

Our personalities, our individuality, indeed our whole reason for living, lie in the brain and in the elusive phenomenon of consciousness it generates. Thinkers in many disciplines have long struggled with such questions, often in ways that have seemed incompatible, if not downright contradictory.

Philosophers have meditated on the subjective experience of consciousness, with little attention to the physical realm, while scientists have sought to establish a causal relation between brain function and mind, often ignoring the qualitative aspects of experience.

In Journey to the Centers of the Mind, Susan Greenfield offers an intriguing, unifying theory of consciousness that encompasses both phenomenological mental events and physical aspects of brain function.

Using information gathered from cluesin animal behavior, human brain damage, computer science, neurobiology, and philosophy, Greenfield offers a "concentric theory" of consciousness, and shows how certain events in the brain correspond to our qualitative experience of the world. Demonstrating the ways in which we can interpret the experience of consciousness in terms of interactions among neurons, she explores how much we can learn by continuing to find the links between our physical and mental inner worlds.