Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind Paperback – 7 Apr 2003
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What would you say about a woman who, despite stroke-induced paralysis crippling the entire left side of her body, insists that she is whole and strong--who even sees her left hand reach out to grasp objects? Freud called it "denial"; neurologists call it "anosognosia". However it may be labelled, this phenomenon and others like it allow us peeks into other mental worlds and afford us considerable insight into our own.
The writings of Oliver Sacks and others have shown us that we can learn much about ourselves by looking closely at the deficits shown by people with neurological problems. VS Ramachandran has seen countless patients suffering from anosognosia, phantom limb pain, blindsight and other disorders, and he brings a remarkable mixture of clinical intuition and research savvy to bear on their problems. He is one of the few scientists who are able and willing to explore the personal, subjective ramifications of his work; he rehumanizes an often too-sterile field and captures the spirit of wonder so essential for true discovery. Phantoms in the Brain is equal parts medical mystery, scientific adventure, and philosophical speculation; Ramachandran's writing is smart, caring, and very, very funny.
Whether you're curious about the workings of the brain, interested in alternatives to expensive, high-tech science (much of Ramachandran's research is done with materials found around the home), or simply want a fresh perspective on the nature of human consciousness, you'll find satisfaction withPhantoms in the Brain. --Rob Lightner
'Gloriously accessible ... written with humility and intelligent generosity, Phantoms In The Brain grips from start to finish.' -- Guardian
'If you are at all interested in how your brain works, this is the book you must read.' -- Dr Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved this book. Utterly fascinating and I felt compelled to carry on with every page. Definitely insightful!Published 6 months ago by Caroline Nguyen
Brilliantly written and a great book for both students and the general interested readerPublished 9 months ago by Mrs. P. Triger
Very easy to read. Informative. Interesting variety of cases discussed. Some simple but awesome experiments mentioned that you can try for yourself. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ramya
Received in good time and condition. Probably the most informative book in the world regarding the human condition. Written with humour and empathyPublished 20 months ago by Christine Gaughan
I am enjoying reading this book. I just dip into it every so often. He rather labours the points to start with, but speeds up later. The part about how we see is so interesting.Published on 22 April 2014 by Fanny
I am a 16 year old boy who has just chosen to study psychology at my sixth form. I very rarely read but over the past month I have been hooked by this book and will certainly we... Read morePublished on 27 July 2013 by George
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