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A User's Guide To The Brain Paperback – 5 Jun 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (5 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349112967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349112961
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Before consulting with customer service, it's always a good idea to read the manual. Psychiatrist John Ratey has condensed years of research on one of the most intimidating yet ubiquitous pieces of hardware in the world into the ever-handy User's Guide to the Brain. More intellectually stimulating than day-to-day practical, the Guide uses tales from Ratey's practice and other clinical venues, titbits from neuroscientific research, and plain common sense to suggest how the brain develops and manifests personality and behaviour. With section titles like "Free Will and the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus" many readers will feel intimidated, but Ratey is careful to direct his explanations to all--even those without PhD's in neuroanatomy. His four-theatre theory of mental function is interesting and the most directly practical section of the book, incorporating the author's years of experience with patients into a sensible framework that readers can use to better tune their own systems. Describing the changing of the guard from psychoanalysis to a more biological paradigm, Ratey writes:
Neuroscientists have, in a sense, simply taken over the elite, almost clerical office once held by analysts. The language used to describe the brain is, if any thing, more opaque than any of the old psychoanalytic terminology, which was itself so obscure that only trained professionals could wade through the literature. Most people never even bother to learn such terminology, deeming that, like the language of the computer scientists of the early 1970s, it is better left to the nerds.
Determined to help us overcome our sense of helplessness in matters cranial, he has shown that we can understand ourselves better and can learn quite a bit from the nerds. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Compelling ... If you're only going to buy one brain book ever, you could do worse than investing in this one (FOCUS)

Make way for the thinking man's gym, where the brain is the new biceps and sculpting your grey matter rather than downsizing your backside is the ultimate aim of those who sign up for membership. (SUNDAY TIMES)

Before consulting with customer service, it's always a good idea to read the manual. Psychiatrist John Ratey has condensed years of research on one of the most intimidating yet ubiquitous pieces of hardware in the world into the ever-handy User's Guide to the Brain. More intellectually stimulating than day-to-day practical, the Guide uses tales from Ratey's practice and other clinical venues, titbits from neuroscientific research, and plain common sense to suggest how the brain develops and manifests personality and behaviour. With section titles like "Free Will and the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus" many readers will feel intimidated, but Ratey is careful to direct his explanations to all--even those without PhD's in neuroanatomy. His four-theatre theory of mental function is interesting and the most directly practical section of the book, incorporating the author's years of experience with patients into a sensible framework that readers can use to better tune their own systems. Describing the changing of the guard from psychoanalysis to a more biological paradigm, Ratey writes: (Neuroscientists have, in a sense, simply taken over the elite, almost clerical office once held by analysts. The language used to describe the brain is, if any thing, more opaque than any of the old psychoanalytic terminology, which was itself so obscure)

Determined to help us overcome our sense of helplessness in matters cranial, he has shown that we can understand ourselves better and can learn quite a bit from the nerds. (Rob Lightner, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
The book is cleverly structured. Ratey draws you in by beginning each chapter with an account of a real person's perceptual difficulties, the problems these caused in their daily lives because of misdiagnosis and their eventual relief once the real cause was recognized - physical malfunction in the brain. The chapter then becomes more involved as we move away from the personal account to consider how the brain works with regard to the problems described. But the explanation is never overly technical and can easily be grasped by the non-specialist reader. A great deal of trouble has obviously been taken to carefully select the case studies and to present the material in plain English. The writing is concise. Technical terms are always explained when first used. People who are interested in the treatment of depression will find this book very useful. Although depression is not discussed as such, it may come as a revelation to some that we can actually train our brains to 'undepress' ourselves. Anti-depressant drugs, such as the SSRIs, certainly have a role to play but a reading of this book should convince anyone that drugs are by no means the whole answer.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book talks about the brain in a very simple way,without being simplistic.Full of examples and without becoming tiring it keeps the reader interested as it explains how the brain plays the most vital role in many disorders that have been considered psychologic and how drugs are not the only way to cure disorders of the brain.It gives a good background of the brain's physiology and explains the majority of brain function and the pathology that may occur to brain regions and the subsequent problems.In short a very good book that can prove valuable to everybody that uses their brain as it teaches how to use it better and make the most out of it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
I bought this book expecting it to be a light hearted look at how the brain works. Instead it was a very in depth review of the current state of research into brain function. It was fascinating but quite hard going for a non-specialist like myself. If you are prepared to put in the effort, this book is a very informative read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Flamekebab on 28 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought this book quite some time ago and found it very informative, very deep and profoundly interesting.
However, I did feel it was quite heavy going at times and I found it gave me so much to digest that I couldn't read it straight through, I had to stop every now and then to think about what I had just read. It certainly extended the life of the book!
I wouldn't recommend this book as just light reading, but I would recommend it to anyone with some interest in the human mind and human behaviour.
The effort it takes to read it the whole of the way through is well worth it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wiltonian on 1 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a splendid book. Having read two brain books in a row that really engaged my attention, this third one did not let me down. As a general reader who had been prepared for neuroscience jargon by previous reading I did not feel that Ratey's book was too technical. It flowed easily through case studies, scientific explanations and accounts of neuroscientific research at an easy pace that was helped by having things split into short sections that tackled defined topics. Each chapter had something for the individual who wants to understand his own brain; for the parent or grandparent who wants to understand a child's development; or for the person who knows someone who has to cope with some kind of brain limitation. As a final treat, Chapter 9,The Four Theaters, explains a new perspective in defining mental disorders which should give us all hope. This should be read even if all the previous chapters are not. I agree with another reviewer that better diagrams would have helped but I am not a neuroscientist and I do not have to know and name each part of the brain so this didn't detract from the overall appeal of the book for me.
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Format: Paperback
As suggested by the title, this is all about how the brain works. What is fascinating about it in particular are the anecdotes showing what happens when things in the brain go wrong. It is well-known to be amongst the complicated creations in the universe. The author opens up with a look at how we develop, before talking about how we perceive things. As is the case throughout the book, much of what we know (which the author admits is still very limited) comes about from examining the "extremities" of human existence. If you were looking for a discussion on anything other human brains, this isn't the book for you. There is some discussion of our evolutionary roots, but this is minimal.

Moving on, Ratey controversially posits that `attention' and `consciousness' are simply different levels of the same basic phenomenon. This is based on attempts to distinguish the two and the failures of those attempts, with a particularly grey area in between them. He goes on to cover various functions of the brain such as movement, memory, emotion and language. All of this is told in a very straightforward manner, although Ratey doesn't shy away from the more neurological language which may put off some readers.

Throughout the book, Ratey is keen to stress that there is rarely one area of the brain that is responsible for one thing. Instead, the brain is built of multiple overlapping and interconnected networks which, when the neurons are stimulated in certain patterns, produce effects we can recognise and label.

At 380 pages, the book does seem a little longer than it needs to be and towards the end I was just wanting to get it over and done with, as Ratey started to cover ground already well-trodden earlier in the book. The last couple of chapters started ringing a few alarm bells.
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