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Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries…

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind (1998)

by V. S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran introduces us to patients who have suffered deeply strange effects from damage to various parts of their brains, from an inability to recognize or admit that their arm or leg is paralyzed, to the conviction that their loved ones have been replaced by impostors, to becoming ultra-religious in the wake of certain kinds of seizures. He also talks extensively about phantom limbs, a subject he's done a lot of research on. He describes what we know about what's going on in the brains of these people, the many unanswered questions that still remain, his ideas for experiments to help answer some of those questions, and his big-picture thoughts on what it all means for how our brains and our minds function.

I already knew about the various pathologies he's describing, having done a fair bit of reading already on the subject of the human brain, so I was a little worried, going in, that I might find it all kind of old hat. (Or old The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, maybe.) But instead I was absolutely fascinated, because brains are just absolutely wonderful and weird, and Ramachandran vividly illustrates just how weird they can get. Plus also sort of terrified, because thinking too hard about this stuff forces you to face some really unsettling implications about the nature of the self and what can happen to it. There were a lot of ideas in here that were new to me, too, as they seem to be very much Ramachandran's own. Mind you, a lot of those ideas are clearly very speculative, not to mention possibly being out of date, as this book was published nearly twenty years ago. And Ramachandran seems to combine some impressively keen scientific thinking with a tendency to perhaps be a little too open minded about some less scientific ideas. But it was all really, really thought-provoking, nonetheless. ( )
  bragan | Nov 19, 2017 |
This was an excellent book. The author has an ability to derive interesting concepts and tests from case studies. He is insightful and logical. Some concepts discussed are theoretical but are worthy of further investigation. I was not aware of some of the odd cases that he described. I recommend the book for those who are interested in neuroscience. ( )
  GlennBell | Jun 15, 2016 |
Very interesting cases and insight into the complexities of the human brain. ( )
  joyhclark | Jan 20, 2016 |
This book is on a subject I'm deeply interested in: psychological disorders. I found it quite interesting. Ramachandran's writing style is pleasing. This is in sharp contrast with perhaps the best known writer in this field, Oliver Sacks. This book was accessible, lacking the pomposity of Sacks's work.

The book is a bit uneven. I enjoyed the earlier parts much more than later parts. The author warns in the preface that some of the book's contents are empirical, verifiable explanations and some are quite philosophical, abstract, or speculative. It was the grounded chapters that I gained the most pleasure from. I did appreciate Ramachandran's defense of Freud's theory of defense mechanisms. All in all, this is quite a book, with a range of interesting topics investigated with experimentation, conjecture, and speculation. ( )
  The_Kat_Cache | Jun 27, 2013 |
Ramachandran has possibly done it. He is quantifying the qualitative. What is red? There are three laws of qualia. 1 irrevocably input. 2 Choice of output. 3. Transient permanence. The problem of building a model becomes one of modeling the flexibility of choice. ( )
  jefware | Nov 28, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
V. S. Ramachandranprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blakeslee, Sandramain authorall editionsconfirmed
Garène, MichèleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nelissen, JeskeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sacks, OliverForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serra, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Voor mijn moeder Meenakshi, voor mijn vader Subramanian, voor mijn broer Ravi, voor Diane, Mani en Jayakrihna
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0688172172, Paperback)

What would you say about a woman who, despite stroke-induced paralysis crippling the entire left side of her body, insists that she is whole and strong--who even sees her left hand reach out to grasp objects? Freud called it "denial"; neurologists call it "anosognosia." However it may be labeled, this phenomenon and others like it allow us peeks into other mental worlds and afford us considerable insight into our own.

The writings of Oliver Sacks and others have shown us that we can learn much about ourselves by looking closely at the deficits shown by people with neurological problems. V.S. Ramachandran has seen countless patients suffering from anosognosia, phantom limb pain, blindsight, and other disorders, and he brings a remarkable mixture of clinical intuition and research savvy to bear on their problems. He is one of the few scientists who are able and willing to explore the personal, subjective ramifications of his work; he rehumanizes an often too-sterile field and captures the spirit of wonder so essential for true discovery. Phantoms in the Brain is equal parts medical mystery, scientific adventure, and philosophical speculation; Ramachandran's writing is smart, caring, and very, very funny.

Whether you're curious about the workings of the brain, interested in alternatives to expensive, high-tech science (much of Ramachandran's research is done with materials found around the home), or simply want a fresh perspective on the nature of human consciousness, you'll find satisfaction with Phantoms in the Brain. --Rob Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Dr. Ramachandran recounts how his work with patients who have bizarre neurological disorders has shed new light on the deep architecture of the brain, and what these findings tell us about who we are, how we construct our body image, why we laugh or become depressed, why we may believe in God, how we make decisions, deceive ourselves and dream, perhaps even why we're so clever at philosophy, music and art.… (more)

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