9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Reverse engineering the brain,
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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Initial post: 4 Jul 2009 08:14:42 BDT
Spider Monkey says:
A good review and I tend to agree about the last chapter. It was the only weak part of the book. Keep up the good work.
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