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Mapping The Mind Paperback – 1 Jun 2000
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The brain has been the last "terra incognita" of the body for medical exploration, largely because its matter is so different from that of the rest of the body. In 1986 the eminent evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith identified the problem of how the brain works as one of the two outstanding problems in biology (along with how a simple egg develops into a complex adult organism). Most of us have experienced some apparently inexplicable quirk of the mind, such as selective memory loss. Without obvious "hard wiring", anatomical "labels" or other guiding features, medical scientists have struggled to identify its parts, their functions and connections to the mind. Not that this has stopped curiosity; there is anthropological evidence dating back some thousands of years for crude but sometimes successful attempts to open the skull and get at the brain.
Rita Carter is an award-winning medical writer. (Medical Journalists' Association prize for outstanding contribution). In Mapping the Mind she explores the landscape of the brain and its connections with the mind. We should all be enthralled by this adventure for "it is giving us greater understanding about one of the oldest and most fundamental of mysteries--the relationship between the brain and mind". Carter introduces the subject with the historical background of anatomical discoveries and emerging theories of brain/mind connections. The famous tragic story of the 19th-century American railway worker, Phineas Gage, is here. An iron rod blasted through poor Phineas's skull. It entered below his left eye and exited through his skull roof, removing a large chunk of his forebrain. Amazingly, Phineas survived but his personality was radically changed, as was reported by his doctor, John Harlow.
In this fascinating and well-illustrated book, Rita Carter shows just how far we have travelled in our understanding since the mid-19th century world of Dr Harlow and gives a sense of how far we still have to travel. As she says: "The world within our heads is more marvellous than anything we can dream up". The last few decades have seen a revolution in non-invasive brain mapping thanks to the scientific miracles of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and associated technologies. It is now possible to see which part of the brain responds to specific stimulation in real time. As Rita Carter says: "The challenge of mapping this world...is currently engaging some of the finest scientists in the world". Excellent design and imagery, plus vignettes from famous scientists such as Francis Crick, a bibliography and an index make this a very useful book as well as a good read. --Douglas Palmer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
fascinating stuff (BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH)
It's fascinating to understand how much of our personality is directly related to brain function. (Daniel Johns, University Bookseller WESTERN MORNING NEWS)
Well researched...this is a good read for the specialist or general scientist, or anyone inetrested in things of or about the mind. (SCHOOL SCIENCE REVIEW) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
At last! This difficulty is overcome in Mapping the Mind by accessible, lucid writing, and staggeringly beautiful illustrations, which, as anyone who ever had a brilliant teacher intuitively knows, could only be done by someone who completely understands the subject. The illustrations are simply incredible.
The alienation felt at reading overly mechanical, scientific books on one's own brain is immensely disappointing; after all, the subject matter was our own unexplored mind, in which we invested everything, yet from many a hopeful journey through these books we return as empty handed as we came. The pervading impression is that perhaps the brain is a dull, mechanical confusion after all, in which we were mistaken to be so curious.
But after reading Mapping the Mind, it dawns that the understanding is not beyond grasping, and better, that the subject is now, to one's great relief, as fascinating, beautiful and full of wonder, as we knew it should be. The book is inspiring, a first, and is bound to be of interest to everyone.
Probably the best book ever written on the brain!
A couple of gems:
- In the 1930s-1940s, Egas Moniz pioneered the brain operation known as the leucotomy (which later evolved into the more radical lobotomy) to relieve symptons such as depression, schizophrenia and mania. Post-op, patients became quiet and friendly. However, it didn't always cure aggression: Moniz's career was brought to an abrupt end when he was shot by one of his own lobotomized patients.
- Alexithymia is a condition where a person feels emotion but cannot express it through facial expressions and voice tone. People who have this condition might say, in quite a neutral tone: "I am very angry." Then, aware that the statement has some short-coming, they might add: "and I mean it".
I run courses about thinking skills for business (e.g. Mind Mapping, memory and speed-reading) and have found that this book gives me excellent background knowledge to back-up what I teach. I use stories and snippets of information from the book to help to emphasise what I am teaching. A great book if you are interested in knowing more about the human brain.
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