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The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Humanby V.S. Ramachandran
Synopses & Reviews
V. S. Ramachandran is at the forefront of his field-so much so that Richard Dawkins dubbed him the "Marco Polo of neuroscience." Now, in a major new work, Ramachandran sets his sights on the mystery of human uniqueness. Taking us to the frontiers of neurology, he reveals what baffling and extreme case studies can teach us about normal brain function and how it evolved. Synesthesia becomes a window into the brain mechanisms that make some of us more creative than others. And autism — for which Ramachandran opens a new direction for treatment — gives us a glimpse of the aspect of being human that we understand least: self-awareness. Ramachandran tackles the most exciting and controversial topics in neurology with a storyteller's eye for compelling case studies and a researcher's flair for new approaches to age-old questions. Tracing the strange links between neurology and behavior, this book unveils a wealth of clues into the deepest mysteries of the human brain.
"Ramachandran (A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness), director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at UCSD, explores why humans, who are 'anatomically, neurologically and genetically, physiologically apes,' are not 'merely' apes. While animals can communicate with sound and gesture, and chimpanzees can even use words to express immediate needs, humans have developed the ability to speak in structurally complex sentences, and often speak in metaphor. Ramachandran speculates that, as we can map another's actions and intuit their thoughts, we also map our own sensory apparatus, perceiving our surroundings — and perceiving ourselves perceiving our surroundings. We imagine the future and speculate about the past and seek to understand our place in the universe, laying the foundation for our the sense of free will; we not only envisage future actions, but are aware of their potential consequences and the responsibility for our choices. Richard Dawkins has called Ramachandran 'the Marco Polo of neuroscience,' and with good reason. He offers a fascinating explanation of cutting-edge-neurological research that deepens our understanding of the relationship between the perceptions of the mind and the workings of the brain. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"A physician (like Oliver Sacks, a neurologist) as well as a researcher, Ramachandran uses his neurology patients' predicaments to inspire inquiries into how we see and know, the origins of language, the mental basis of civilization, how we conceive of and assess art, and how the self is constructed. Always careful to point out when he is speculating rather than announcing research findings, he is also prompt to emphasize why his speculations, or theories, are not just of the armchair variety but can be put to the test because of what neuroscience has already discovered about the active structures of the human brain." Booklist, Starred Review
"A masterpiece. The best of its kind and beautifully crafted. Alluring story telling, building to a penetrating understanding of what it is to be uniquely human. Ramachandran is the foremost pioneer — the Galileo — of neurocognition." Allan Snyder, FRS, Director of the Centre for the Mind
"Ramachandran is the modern wizard of neuroscience. In The Tell-Tale Brain, we see the genius at work, tackling extraordinary cases, many of which mark turning points in neuroscientific knowledge. We see him hypothesizing, experimenting, failing, having epiphanies, experimenting, succeeding. In this utterly entertaining account, we see how these fascinating cases fit together, and how he uses them to explain, from a Darwinian point of view, how our brains, though evolved from those of other animals, become neurologically distinct and fundamentally human." Norman Doidge, M.D., author of The Brain That Changes Itself
"No one is better than V. S. Ramachandran at combining minute, careful observation with ingenious experiments and bold, adventurous theorizing. The Tell-Tale Brain is Ramachandran at his best, a profoundly intriguing and compelling guide to the intricacies of the human brain." Oliver Sacks, author of The Mind's Eye
"Ramachandran has written an astonishing book. His humanity, humor and scientific genius inform every passage. The Tell-Tale Brain is a veritable Voyage of the Beagle through the terrain of brain science and psychology." Nicholas Humphrey, author of Seeing Red
Book News Annotation:
Writing for general readers in a conversational style, with a sense of humor, neuroscientist Amachandran uses dramatic and unusual case studies from his own patients to reflect on age-old questions such as the sources of creativity and the evolution of language. An introduction offers a quick primer on basic brain anatomy while subsequent chapters highlight areas such as sensory processing, our sensitivity to beauty, and the nature of self-awareness. A set of three chapters offers a special focus on the role of mirror neurons, which are brain cells that fire both when we perform a specific action and when we watch someone else perform that same action, and their role in the development of language, empathy, and the transmission of culture. Amachandran directs the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California-San Diego. His previous book, Phantoms in the Brain, formed the basis for a PBS special. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Drawing on strange and thought-provoking case studies, an eminent neurologist offers unprecedented insight into the evolution of the uniquely human brain.
About the Author
V. S. Ramachandran is the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and a Distinguished Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego. He lives in Del Mar, California.
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