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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into neurological problems
I first heard of VS Ramachandran when quite by accident I tuned into his giving the 2003 Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4. His entertaining & instructive style prompted me to tune in a few nights later for the next instalment, and then to go and seek out his published work.
Phantoms in the Brain is an excellent introduction to practical studies of phantom limbs...
Published on 18 April 2004 by Keith Appleyard

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong, but could be shorter.
VS Ramachandran is a highly respected neurologist whose body of research is vast. This book tries to cover the majority of it, with some metaphysics and psychology added as well. Although I very much enjoyed the initial chapters of the book (the ones dealing with neurological patients and understanding how us 'normal' people function by understanding the dysfunction in...
Published on 7 Feb 2010 by varv


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong, but could be shorter., 7 Feb 2010
This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
VS Ramachandran is a highly respected neurologist whose body of research is vast. This book tries to cover the majority of it, with some metaphysics and psychology added as well. Although I very much enjoyed the initial chapters of the book (the ones dealing with neurological patients and understanding how us 'normal' people function by understanding the dysfunction in their conditions) towards the end I felt that Ramachandran wavered from the initial excitement to a more mellow, hazy abstraction on matters of philosophy.

Ramachandran understands the implications of all of his research in understanding how consciousness manifests itself. However, he tries too hard to form a grand unified 'neuroscientific metaphysics.'He also tries to use neurological means to substantiate personal beliefs and much of his hypotheses (he does emphasize the speculative nature of his theories, one must say) are currently tenuous. I suspect that he perhaps reduced the level of complexity of many of his theories to satisfy the layman and this is unfortunate if true.

To summarise, there are numerous positive points about this book e.g. the brilliant analysis of phantom limbs and the pratical solutions associated with it, the incredibly erudite and interesting exploration of neurological deficits in patients and therefore the improvement in understanding how our brains work and finally the substantial notes section in the back of the book for an interested reader. I must also say that the writing style is excellent, both engaging and humorous. However, I feel that Ramachandran has tried to extend his theories too far in the latter section of the book. They seem highly speculative and beyond the realm of conventional science at the moment.

Therefore, I reccommend that any individual may buy this to savour those early chapters however be wary of the latter three or four chapters.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into neurological problems, 18 April 2004
By 
Keith Appleyard "kapple999" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
I first heard of VS Ramachandran when quite by accident I tuned into his giving the 2003 Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4. His entertaining & instructive style prompted me to tune in a few nights later for the next instalment, and then to go and seek out his published work.
Phantoms in the Brain is an excellent introduction to practical studies of phantom limbs syndrome, and thus into the workings of the human brain and the concept of body imaging.
As a direct consequence of reading this book, I then eagerly awaited his next offering, the transcript of those BBC Lectures.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 2 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
A light and approachable book talking about how the mind (appears to) work(s) - I'm not a doctor or a scientist but still found this absorbing enough to read on holiday. As a point of reference, it is most similar in tone to Oliver Sacks' books (The Man Who His Wife For A Hat).
Using examples gleaned from case histories, Dr Ramachandran takes us into the world of phantom limbs, people who see cartoons and more. Oprah it is not - rather it is a thought provoking glimpse into the yet to be fully understood workings of the brain. Recommended
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Stimulating, 1 Aug 2005
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This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
A truly interesting book, it reads like a novel with the author telling about all these absolutely extraordinary things which people can experience simply because of some problem in their brain and he then goes on to tell exactly why they happen. I found that after finishing each chapter I just had to tell someone about the case he had been describing, then you can sound like a proper "brain surgeon" and explain to them exactly why the problem occured.
I think this book may be the best way to learn about the brain because the book is just unputdownable but you learn so much.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reverse engineering the brain, 21 Aug 2008
By 
SAP (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
Building a brain from scratch too difficult? No problem. Why not try it the other way. Dismantle a brain piece by piece to find out what each bit does (or did). OK, since this is ethically incorrect, how about waiting for patients with brain injuries to come to you and if you know which part of their brain is damaged (and there are plenty of modern techniques that can do this these days, such as PET or MRI) and if they also have behavioural or physical symptoms then you can put two and two together to infer what that piece of the brain is responsible for. This is kind of what Professor Ramachandran does. Not only does he introduce us to his patients (or composites of them), he also scours medical literature to find other celebrated cases too.

With his own patients he also sometimes devises deceptively simple experiments to probe their conditions further. Such as his Blue Peter-style mirror box which he uses on his neglect and phantom pain patients (two intriguing pathologies). The result is a fascinating book. My only slight gripe was with the last chapter, 12, which was supposed to be a summing up chapter about putting everything we'd learned together to tackle the problem of "self" via "qualia" -- the subjective, raw feel of something. For me he stretched what I'd learned in the preceding chapters too far and crammed too much information in. The result was that I finished a delightful book feeling a little frustrated. I'd like to give it 4.5 stars but demoting it to 4.0 would be too unfair.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to neuroscience and psychology, 13 Jun 2011
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Robert (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
By taking a case by case example approach, the author takes you step by step into areas of cognitive psychology that are fascinating and insightful. It also made me want to tear up my books on cognitive psychology, as the neurological evidence contradicts many of the theories of the cognitive psychologists.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Rigorous but a lot of FUN!, 7 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
Excellent read on neurology (understood by exploring pathology), very entertaining. At times quite speculative and Ramachandran does warn that results are anecdotal/preliminary and implications far from conclusive but generally it is easy to spot that. It's science mixed with insight and altogether just a fun read. But far from rigorous for the more science minded...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great, 4 Aug 2008
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This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
I purchased this book as it had a chapter that partly related to the subject of my thesis(linking proprioception to phantom limb sensation). The chapter on phantom limb sensation was brilliant. It was very interesting and gave me food for thought. However, i then proceed to read more of the book when i really should have been doing my thesis...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting neurologic cases, 13 April 2011
By 
Christian Wendt (Berlin) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
Fascinating, very good to read account of neurologic cases.

Ramachandran has a marvellous gift of using the English language in an efficient, easy, pleasant style. The cases are very interesting, and offer a lot of insight into the human condition. I learned many interesting facts, yet the mystery of the human brain remains. It's a shame that so many people have still very deadlocked views of the human mind and its alleged limitations. If they would touch a book like this, it could open their eyes in many ways.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and clear explanation, 22 Dec 2010
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This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
Ramachandran explains how the brain is organised and how it functions. What's more, he explores what happens when it goes wrong, especially explaining the concept of phantom limbs and how they're related to the plasticity of the brain. These are concepts taken for granted now, but when the book was written were at the forefront of knowledge.
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