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The Tell-Tale Brain: Unlocking the Mystery of Human Nature [Paperback]

V. S. Ramachandran
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 April 2012

John, aged sixty, suffered a stroke and recovered fully, except in one respect: although he can see perfectly, he can no longer recognise faces, even his own reflection in a mirror.

Whenever Francesca touches a particular texture, she experiences a vivid emotion: denim = extreme sadness; wax = embarrassment; orange peel = shock.

Jimmie, whose left arm was recently amputated, can still feel it - and it's itchy.

Our brains are the most enchanting and complex things in the known universe - but what happens when they go wrong? Dr V. S. Ramachandran, 'the Sherlock Holmes of brain science' and one of the world's leading neuroscientists, has spent a lifetime working with patients who suffer from rare and baffling brain conditions. In The Tell-Tale Brain, he tells their stories, and explores what they reveal about the greatest mystery of them all: how our minds work, and what makes each of us so uniquely human.

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The Tell-Tale Brain: Unlocking the Mystery of Human Nature + Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind + The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (5 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099537591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099537595
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Ramachandran is a latter-day Marco Polo" (Richard Dawkins)

"A profoundly intriguing and compelling guide to the intricacies of the human brain." (Oliver Sachs)

"Excellent ... I cannot imagine a better account of the sweep of contemporary neuroscience" (Financial Times)

"A leader in his field and an ingenious and tireless researcher. This is the best book of its kind that I have come across" (New York Review of Books)

"A masterpiece. The best of its kind and beautifully crafted." (Allan Snyder, FRS, Director of the Centre for the Mind)

Book Description

A groundbreaking book about what we learn about human nature when the brain goes wrong, by the world's most exciting brain scientist.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Minding about the brain 12 Feb 2011
By coincidence, two great books on mind and brain have appeared almost simultaneously, the other being Self Comes to Mind by Antonio Damasio. If you are going to read only one of them it should be this one, which is more approachable, but the two authors give rather different accounts, so if you want to understand how controversial the subject is you should read both. Ramachandran reviews the most important things from his earlier books, so you get them all for the price of one.

Basing himself on extraordinary case histories, such as the man who feels that he is dead and the man with a phantom twin, the author builds up a picture of the astonishing complexity of the processes that combine to present us with the illusion of a single self viewing the world. Chapter 9 is the most ground-breaking of all, full of insights into introspection and its pitfalls. The whole book is very readable, full of memorable stories without losing sight of its serious theme.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
By davidT
Format:Kindle Edition
For a scientific book, I read this one in record time. It's a privilege to have such a well-written study from an author who is clearly at the forefront of research into the brain and its workings. I find Oliver Sacks tends to present strange cases and leave them there, with very little explanation (or, maybe, understanding) of the anatomical reasons which may lie behind the problem. Ramachandran on the other hand has gone much deeper into the possible causes and has come up with an impressive range of solutions to neurological problems - for example curing the itching of phantom limbs by the use of mirrors, or even by getting patients to watch others being massaged. What comes across continually is his enthusiasm and questioning mind, always prepared to try something apparently off-the-wall to test a new hypothesis. At one point, he even seems to be musing over the possibility of relieving the symptoms of autism by injecting patients with the malaria virus. Fortunately he's not tried it, but surprisingly he does make a reasoned case for it! Nor is he afraid to explore territory outside his discipline (which did start to cause me problems - see below).
The field is of course a gift, because there is nothing more mysterious and complicated than the human brain, and when it goes wrong it goes wrong in spectacular ways. Ramachandran explains some of the weirder syndromes in terms both of their symptoms and the underlying causes - for example Capgras syndrome, where someone recognises their husband or wife, but believes them to be an identical impostor - except when taking to them on the telephone. Easy to see once the pathways through the brain are explained to you. Similarly, synaesthesia, where people see numbers as colours.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insights 7 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A highly entertaining and informative book touring much that is current and exciting in neurology. His approach is to make deductions based on patients with isolated damage to the brain. What he and his colleagues have learned is mind-blowing (no pun intended) and also forcibly underlines that much of the brain/mind's abilities is more hard-wired than some have assumed with more specialist areas even perhaps regarding consciousness itself. A generic computer it is not.

He goes further in putting forward testable hypotheses to enable yet further advance. These go as far as an evolutionary and neuroscience-based theory of art and also aspects of our sense of self. As regards the aware self, in particular, he reckons we are only at the beginnings of understanding and to try to leap to some profound understanding of consciousness is premature. Disappointing as I had approached the end of the book hoping for enlightenment on this issue but very sensible! That said, I do feel I understand the issues more and how aspects of self arise out of the brain/mind's structure, particularly the embodiment of the self.

All in all an indispensable and readily understandable read if interested in the interplay of brain, mind and self.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mysteries of the Human Mind 1 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
V.S.Ramachandran takes his readers on a fascinating guided tour around the human brain. He calms that it is impossible to comprehend it complexities without first understanding how it evolved and how our unique human traits were gradually acquired. He presents absorbing case studies of patients with rare neurological conditions. His tireless observations and experiments with brain damaged patients allow him to create hypotheses and theories regarding the workings of the human mind. Brain imaging techniques are used to explore and test specific hypotheses and in the absence of concrete, empirical evidence he uses intuitive hunches to bridge any factual gaps in his theories.
Ramachandran leaves no stone unturned as he explores such subjects as language evolution, the laws of aesthetics, the riddle of autism, human consciousness and the sense of self.
A thought- provoking read which I would recommend to anyone interested in the mysteries of the human brain.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelation 3 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dr Ramachandram writes with the ease of a whodunnit best seller using limpid English to make extraordinarily difficult concepts and pathways as clear as gin. A fasinating book which I have recommended without qualification to everyone I think might have the slightest interest - and many who haven't, in case! Buy it soon.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great service & Great book
Published 3 months ago by Martin Browne
5.0 out of 5 stars Will read it again
Fascinating insight into the human brain
Published 3 months ago by glabrum
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant by a Brilliant mind.
Dr Ramachandran is one of the world's top neuroscientist and he has explained his discoveries and cases in a way that is comprehensible for the lay people. Read more
Published 9 months ago by shama
5.0 out of 5 stars i wish i could remember it all
Excellent book. Full of interesting and inspiring anecdotes about the brain. An awful lot to take in though. i still haven't finished it!
Published 10 months ago by Mrs Amy Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, not as good as PITB but still good
The main problem i had with this was that it repeats some of the work in phantoms in the brain by VS Ramachandran- that is my favourite book! Read more
Published 10 months ago by G. J. Webster
5.0 out of 5 stars A true Renaissance man
This is one of my favourite popular science books. You can try for yourself some of the experiments and this book, with clarity, will give you a glimpse of what is happening in... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Benoit D. Philippe
5.0 out of 5 stars Neuroscientist and storyteller in one
Ramachandran has a magical way of turning neuroscience into an Alice in Wonderland trip through the brain; he is neuroscientist and storyteller in one. Read more
Published 12 months ago by R. WEST-SOLEY
3.0 out of 5 stars Most informative but needs better visual mapping
This is a most informative book where the author makes very frequent references to a wide range brain structures and systems. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Dr Hugh McCredie
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tell-Tale Brain: Unlocking the Mystery of Human Nature
Fascinating book and even though a complex, scientific book, it is a very interesting read.
The author has a very user-friendly style and engages with humanity and good... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Hen
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Yet another entrancing read from Ramachandran. So enjoyable being in his company. Easy to read and yet full of interesting ideas and concepts.
Published 20 months ago by Picnicoo
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