Customer Reviews


27 Reviews
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


35 of 38 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

versus
12 of 13 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


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

35 of 38 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
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Stimulating, 1 Aug. 2005
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


52 of 57 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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reverse engineering the brain, 21 Aug. 2008
By 
SAP "Steba" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to neuroscience and psychology, 13 Jun. 2011
By 
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Rigorous but a lot of FUN!, 7 Sept. 2009
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great, 4 Aug. 2008
By 
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...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Good follow up to Oliver Sacks' work, 4 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind (Paperback)
I read Phantoms in the Brain after coming across a few good quotes from it in Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction.
Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Ramachandran seems to be in the same circles as Oliver Sacks and the book very much reads like a more in-depth version of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, almost a follow up to it, perhaps with a bit less sensationalism, depending on your take of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
It jumped straight into a full on explanation of phantom limbs and his experience of the whole strange topic. Although I at first felt like this was more than I ever wanted to know about phantom limbs there were some amazingly simple 'cures' for a phantom arm for example, that sounded like they should have been discovered two hundred years ago, yet were from the late 80s. He talked about patients suffering from a phantom lower arm where their hand was permanently stuck in a clenched fist position, so much so that the phantom muscles in their phantom arm ache chronically and the phantom finger-nails in the phantom fingers dig into their phantom palm causing excruciating, incurable pain.

One way he found of relieving this pain was to construct a simple black box with two holes on the front and a removable lid. The patient inserts their two arms, both fists clenched, into the box (one arm is a phantom) then upon removing the lid of the box the patient actually sees two reel fists in the box via a mirror in the middle of the box, reflecting the real arm in the position of the phantom. When ready, the patient un-clenches both fists and for the first time (via their own visual feedback system) is able to feel the relief of the phantom hand relaxing and un-clenching.

This hasn't turned out to be a cure for phantom limbs but more of a hint to their nature and whereabouts in the brain and within the human condition. Ramamchandran lightheartedly mentions how patients have been dispatched with magic black boxes of their own to work with for 20 minutes a day to relieve the discomfort of a phantom limb.

The main reason I wanted to read the book was for its insights into our consciousness and our ideas of self. This was touched on quite a bit in the first chapter in relation to perfectly sane people feeling like they can reach out and pick up an object within arms length, even though they are completely aware of having no arms. There were interesting points raised about our visual feedback system and how easy it is to distort our image of our physical self by closing our eyes and engaging in simple exercises.

The more interesting points were mentioned in what I felt was the best chapter called 'The Unbearable likeness of Being'. It was centred around a case of Capgras' delusion where the patient insisted that his parents were in fact impostors that looked just like them but lacked the particular 'isms' of his real parents. There were extra twists where the patient would accept them as his own parents whilst talking to them over the phone, but not face to face. Through this case and Ramachandra's experiments with the patient all kinds of links between our various sensory input systems were uncovered and illustrated in their use in making sense of the world around us (when not suffering from a neurological disorder).

Throughout the book Ramachandran laid down interesting ideas about how we construct our own reality and how we rely on particular functions to do so (using interesting examples of how we fill in our blind spot because we can't function with holes throughout every scene we look at "it's clear that the mind, like nature, abhors a vacuum and will apparently supply whatever information is required to complete the scene").

Although not as focused on consciousness as I might have liked Phantoms in the Brain is a good read, has given me new ideas and understandings and I will be recommending it to my Oliver Sacks fan friends.

I think my favourite quote from the book is
"Most organisms evolve to become more and more specialized as they take up new environmental niches, be it a longer neck for the giraffe or sonar for the bat. Humans, on the other hand, have evolved an organ, a brain, that gives us the capacity to evade specialization. We can colonize the Arctic without evolving a fur coat over millions of years like the polar bear because can go kill one, take its coat and drape it on ourselves. And then we can give it to our children and grand children."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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
(REAL NAME)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind
£8.79
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews