Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

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Harper Collins, Aug 18, 1999 - Medical - 352 pages
2 Reviews

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran is internationally renowned for uncovering answers to the deep and quirky questions of human nature that few scientists have dared to address. His bold insights about the brain are matched only by the stunning simplicity of his experiments -- using such low-tech tools as cotton swabs, glasses of water and dime-store mirrors. In Phantoms in the Brain, Dr. Ramachandran recounts how his work with patients who have bizarre neurological disorders has shed new light on the deep architecture of the brain, and what these findings tell us about who we are, how we construct our body image, why we laugh or become depressed, why we may believe in God, how we make decisions, deceive ourselves and dream, perhaps even why we're so clever at philosophy, music and art. Some of his most notable cases:

  • A woman paralyzed on the left side of her body who believes she is lifting a tray of drinks with both hands offers a unique opportunity to test Freud's theory of denial.
  • A man who insists he is talking with God challenges us to ask: Could we be "wired" for religious experience?
  • A woman who hallucinates cartoon characters illustrates how, in a sense, we are all hallucinating, all the time.

Dr. Ramachandran's inspired medical detective work pushes the boundaries of medicine's last great frontier -- the human mind -- yielding new and provocative insights into the "big questions" about consciousness and the self.


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User Review  - Amber - Borders

This is a really good book for anyone interested in neurology! I read this book in college for a neurology class as a text book and it was, and still is the best book I've EVER read in college!! I would highly recommend this book. Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This was a really interesting read, even for someone who works in health care and is exposed to a lot of these neurological anomalies that Ramachandran talks about. He explained a lot of things that previously made no sense me and made me question a lot of my own biases and assumptions about things I have seen in patients in the hospital. Dr. Ramachandran has some really interesting theories, some of them he is able to prove or at least explain in a way that makes sense. Other things feels like he is really reaching and he doesn't really have much of a basis for what he is inferring, other than his own intuition.  


The Phantom Within
Knowing Where to Scratch
Chasing the Phantom
The Zombie in the Brain
The Secret Life of James Thurber
Through the Looking Glass
The Sound of One Hand Clapping
The Unbearable Likeness of Being
The Woman Who thed Laughing
You Forgot to Deliver the Twin
Do Martians See Red?
Bibliography and Suggested Reading

God and the Limbic System

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About the author (1999)

V. S. Ramachandran is the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness.

Sandra Blakeslee is a science correspondent at the New York Times who specializes in the brain sciences.

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