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The Tell-Tale Brain: Unlocking the Mystery of Human Nature Hardcover – 6 Jan 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann; First Edition edition (6 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434020230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434020232
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 317,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Ramachandran is a latter-day Marco Polo" (RICHARD DAWKINS)

"A masterpiece. The best of its kind and beautifully crafted. Alluring storytelling, building to a penetrating understanding of what it is to be uniquely human. Ramachandran is the foremost pioneer-the Galileo-of neurocognition. Mysteries of the mind, like our love of art, are revealed through his ingenious, deceptively simple experiments. Here is the fruit of a long, daring career, peppered with breakthroughs and unforgettable insights." (Allan Snyder, Director, Centre for the Mind)

""No one is better than V. S. Ramachandran at combining minute, careful observation with ingenious experiments and bold, adventurous theorizing. THE TELL-TALE BRAIN is Ramachandran at his best, a profoundly intriguing and compelling guide to the intricacies of the human brain."" (Oliver Sacks)

"

Ramachandran is the modern wizard of neuroscience. In THE TELL-TALE BRAIN, we see the genius at work

" (Norman Doidge, MD, author of The Brain That Changes Itself)

"Ramachandran has written an astonishing book. His humanity, humour and scientific genius inform every passage. The Tell-Tale Brain is a veritable Voyage of the Beagle through the terrain of brain science and psychology." (Nicholas Humphrey, author of Seeing Red)

Book Description

A groundbreaking, unique and utterly fascinating book about what we learn about human nature when the brain goes wrong, by one of the world's leading neuroscientists

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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Pipistrel on 12 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
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 on 28 Mar. 2011
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 By Traveller on 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 By Isabelle on 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Jordan on 6 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author characterises the book in various ways, including "cracking the code of the human brain", but also in terms of explaining human uniqueness - or how we differ from apes. I doubt it does any of these things - it doesn't tell us all that much about apes, for example, and the code of the human brain remains uncracked - but many of the chapters are absolutely compelling for all that.

The books tells us about phantom limbs - how the brain is structured so that they come into being and how to treat them (with mirrors), about how we perceive (it's not simple), about the cross-wiring of the brain for synaesthesia, about mirror neurons which are the key to empathy (and when they're missing, to autism), about how we appreciate beauty (maybe going for the "ultra-normal" stimulus, as gull chicks do, in liking modern art), and about what brain damage can tell us about the unity of the self, our memories, our sense of inhabiting our own bodies (or not, as when it seem wrong to us, or unreal, or we identify instead with the world). A particularly interesting section shows how what psychoanalysts call the mechanisms of defence can all be illustrated in brain damanged patients who have lost the use of limbs but don't recognise this: denial, rationalisation, confabulation, reaction formation, projection, intellectualisation and repression. Not of course that Freud got it all completely right...

It's clear that the author has personally made major advances in scientific understanding, and in the case of phantom limbs to the treatment of patients. He also has a wide-raning curioisty and vision.
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