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Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain [Paperback]

Antonio Damasio
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012

Winner of the CORINE International Book Award 2011

From one of the most important neuroscientists at work today, a path-breaking investigation of a question that has confounded neurologists, philosophers, cognitive scientists and psychologists for centuries: how is consciousness created?

Antonio Damasio has spent the past thirty years studying and writing about how the brain operates, and his work has garnered acclaim for its singular melding of the scientific and the humanistic. In Self Comes to Mind, he goes against the long-standing idea that consciousness is somehow separate from the body, presenting compelling new scientific evidence that consciousness - what we think of as a mind with a self - is in fact a biological process created by a living organism.

The result is a groundbreaking investigative journey into the neurobiological foundations of mind and self.

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Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain + Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain + The Feeling Of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099498022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099498025
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Breathtakingly original" (Financial Times)

"Awareness may be mostly mystery, but Damasio shapes its hints and glimmerings into an imaginative, informed narrative" (Kirkus)

"The marvel of reading Damasio's book is to be convinced one can follow the brain at work as it makes the private reality that is the deepest self" (V. S. Naipaul)

"Damasio's most ambitious work yet. It is a lucid and important work" (Word)

"The epicenter of Self Comes to Mind concerns the neurological basis for cognition and the issue of the superposition of a "self' onto the construct which we address as reality. Damasio is both eloquent and scholarly. His command of the themes he approaches is impressive, as is the vigor with which he tackles such recondite issues as the elusive "self," inside the head. A wonderful read, and a recommended one!" (Rodolfo R. Llinás, New York University)

Book Description

A profound and groundbreaking new book telling the story of consciousness and the human mind, from one of the world's leading neuroscientists.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very important book on consciousness 4 April 2013
By Savita
This is undoubtedly Antonio Damasio's best book to date. 'Looking for Spinoza' was
somewhat disappointng but then dealing with philosophy is when he is at his weakest.
Like all good specialists he is excellent in the field he specialises in. A philosopher of
mind may be well-read in the science of neurology but that does not make him a
neuroscientist anymore than reading a lot of philosophy puts Damasio on a par with the
philosophers although he clearly is very well-read in philosophy.

For the benefit of anyone who is not at all familiar with this book or its author, this is a
brilliant neuroscientist who is very keen on trying to explain consciousness and through his
work with brain-damaged patients has had the opportunity to see when, where and how
consciousness is impaired by brain damage. He has formulated a number of hypotheses
including the well-known somatic marker hypothesis that result, in this book, in a
framework that the author hopes can be tested in the coming years to produce a proper
theory. This is not the answer and is not presented as such. It is a work in progress but it
makes a very important contribution to our understanding of how the human brain works,
how it evolved to be that way and why consciousness came about even if there is still a lot
that requires a proper explanation. No dead-end jobs in neuroscience!

Criticisms in reviews and comments here about the book's editing seem to me entirely
unjustified. The book seems to be intended for everyone from neoroscientists,
psychologists, psychiatrists and philosophers down to the interested layman and given
that remit it does very well with what is an incredibly complex subject.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy for a light read! 14 Dec 2010
Damasio discusses the phenomenon of consciousness mainly from the perspectives of neurobiology and evolutionary biology, but also makes interesting points about the philosophical, psychological and cultural significance of his ideas. If you are an interested layman like me rather than an expert, then you might find it helpful to read Chapters 1, 10 and 11 first in order to gain a broad understanding of the framework being offered. Chapters 2-9 are often highly detailed and technical, and threaten information overload if delved into unprepared.

As the title of the book indicates, Damasio argues that in order to be conscious a brain needs to construct 'maps' or 'images' of the knower as well as of the known. Subjectivity requires a subject, but the subject isn't a soul or a homunculus but a self which is being continually generated by interacting neural structures. In the course of evolution, processes supplying a protoself developed into processes supplying a core self, which in turn developed into processes supplying the autobiographical self typical of humans.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Conflict with Neuroscience 8 April 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The merits of this book lie in the clarity of expression, which makes difficult material accessible to a lay audience, and encourages us to think about the whole area of consciousness and the self. The author's main theme is the influence of inputs from the body on consciousness. In itself this represents an advance on much of twentieth century consciousness studies, with its tendency to view the brain as an isolated computer.

Problems arise with the degree of emphasis on bodily inputs, at the expense of inputs from the external world. The author focuses almost exclusively on inputs from the body to the brain stem. This approach looks to ignore a lot of what has been going on in recent neuroscience, where there is a model of sensory inputs from the external world that are evaluated in the orbitofrontal cortex. Processing here directly correlates to subjective experience, with this region projecting to the basal ganglia areas that are important in determining behaviour.

Damasio does lay stress on the role of dopamine and other neuromodulators, but does not bring out the fact that although the nuclei producing these molecules are in the brain stem, it is the basal ganglia that are substantially responsible for their release into the rest of the brain. He also fails to say much about how sensory inputs are processed by the amygdala and orbitofrontal before being signaled to the body, creating an interactive process rather than the simple feed forward implied in this book. In all Damasio has given us a model that is in significant conflict with some recent research. This is not to say his position is wrong, but he needs to provide more justification as to why his picture is at such variance with this research.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Changes the way you think about your thinking 8 Dec 2010
Neuroscience is hot and for a good reason. After years in which we had to believe that we are the masters in our bodies and brains and that we are the creators of our destiny, the new biological paradigm of brain science teaches us some modesty. We are our brains, as the Dutch neurologist Swaab writes. And these brains operate on conscious as well as unconscious levels. The interesting thing about Damasio's book is that it show us that what makes us human - our highly developed consciousness - is rooted in biological processes in the brain. Trillions of cells, embedded in the architecture of the brain, cooperate to produce the pattern that we call consciousness. The author builds this up step by step, dealing with the image-making capacities of the brain (the mind) as a condition for consciousness, and the development of a feeling of self in a long evolutionary process. The text is not always easy and some prior knowledge of the brain and its functions really helps. The mystery of what consciousness really is, does not disappear after reading. On the contrary, after turning the last page, I had the feeling that it has become more of a mystery how we experience our bodies and the world and manage to maintain a sense of identity constructed by the immensely complex machinery of the brain.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars sort out your thinking.
Important and closely argued, but very densely written. Absolutely essential reading for anyone wants to grasp the physical foundations of the things we used to call souls or... Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleased!
Was very happy with how fast I received the product and was the correct description. A great book to read would recommend it if interested in psychology and biology.
Published 22 months ago by ss2010
5.0 out of 5 stars Protagonizing the mind
Living creatures come in all shapes and sizes, from unicellular organisms to elephants, and life in some form or other has been around for over three billion years. Read more
Published on 5 Mar 2011 by Sphex
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind how you read!
By coincidence, two great books on mind and brain have appeared almost simultaneously, the other being The Tell-Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2011 by Pipistrel
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating and disappointing
Having had a longstanding interest in philosophy of mind and the problem of consciousness, I was looking forward to reading this book. Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2011 by Dr. WD Ashton
4.0 out of 5 stars Isn't it logically shaky in saying that Mind = Brain using Brain?
Together with the author's previous book (in 1994) Descartes' Error, this book also is a work of materialistic scientists, who are trying to explain everything of scientific... Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by Masayoshi Ishida
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