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Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind (1998)

de V. S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee

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1,694157,919 (4.25)18
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.… (mais)
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This should have been called "how to amputate a phantom limb". Arguably the most famous neuroscientist, Ramachandran writes with beautiful insight. Even though it's 16 years old I'd recommend this book. I've read some criticism about his work and don't have the same religious views as him but deeply fascinating and elegant. ( )
  rickycatto | Sep 9, 2020 |
The book is old, but I found the stories fascinating. However, there's a lot of speculation, and near the end the philosophic discussions and the speculation surrounding them began to drive me crazy. I'd be interested in his other book for the sake of learning more about the brain through examining patients with brain anomalies, but not all the philosophy. ( )
  Jennifer708 | Mar 21, 2020 |
The book is old, but I found the stories fascinating. However, there's a lot of speculation, and near the end the philosophic discussions and the speculation surrounding them began to drive me crazy. I'd be interested in his other book for the sake of learning more about the brain through examining patients with brain anomalies, but not all the philosophy. ( )
  Jennifer708 | Mar 21, 2020 |
This book, written by neurologist V. S. Ramachandran, suggests that by looking at case studies of individuals with particular types of brain injuries we can learn a lot about the the human mind. He looks at examples of patients with phantom limb syndrome, vision problems, paralysis and other problems and uses his understanding of their neurological (physiological) causes to speculate on their implications about the structure and functioning of a "normal" human brain.

I found this very interesting to read, with descriptions of both symptoms and anatomy being very clear and easy to follow, although it is a little repetitive in places. However, although I know very little about neurology myself, I found some of his theories hard to swallow - it was often unclear if he was neglecting to mention the evidence he had to back them or if there was no evidence at all. I am particularly skeptical of his explanations for foot-fetishes and anorexia.

A quote which I think sums up Ramachandran's view of the brain well: "Freud's most valuable contribution was his discovery that your conscious mind is simply a facade and that you are completely unaware of 90 percent of what really goes on in your brain." ( )
  tronella | Jun 22, 2019 |
Neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran introduces us to patients who have suffered deeply strange effects from damage to various parts of their brains, from an inability to recognize or admit that their arm or leg is paralyzed, to the conviction that their loved ones have been replaced by impostors, to becoming ultra-religious in the wake of certain kinds of seizures. He also talks extensively about phantom limbs, a subject he's done a lot of research on. He describes what we know about what's going on in the brains of these people, the many unanswered questions that still remain, his ideas for experiments to help answer some of those questions, and his big-picture thoughts on what it all means for how our brains and our minds function.

I already knew about the various pathologies he's describing, having done a fair bit of reading already on the subject of the human brain, so I was a little worried, going in, that I might find it all kind of old hat. (Or old The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, maybe.) But instead I was absolutely fascinated, because brains are just absolutely wonderful and weird, and Ramachandran vividly illustrates just how weird they can get. Plus also sort of terrified, because thinking too hard about this stuff forces you to face some really unsettling implications about the nature of the self and what can happen to it. There were a lot of ideas in here that were new to me, too, as they seem to be very much Ramachandran's own. Mind you, a lot of those ideas are clearly very speculative, not to mention possibly being out of date, as this book was published nearly twenty years ago. And Ramachandran seems to combine some impressively keen scientific thinking with a tendency to perhaps be a little too open minded about some less scientific ideas. But it was all really, really thought-provoking, nonetheless. ( )
  bragan | Nov 19, 2017 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
V. S. Ramachandranautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Blakeslee, Sandraautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Garène, MichèleTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Nelissen, JeskeTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Sacks, OliverPrefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Serra, LauraTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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By the deficits, we may know the talents, by the exceptions, we may discern the rules, by studying pathology we may construct a model of health. And—most important—from this model may evolve the insights and tools we need to affect our own lives, mold our own destinies, change ourselves and our society in ways that, as yet, we can only imagine.
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To my mother, Meenakshi
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To Saraswathy, the goddess of learning, music and wisdom
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The great neurologists and psychiatrists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were masters of description, and some of their case histories provided an almost novelistic richness of detail.
This book has been incubating in my head for many years, but I never quite got around to writing it.
A man wearing an enormous bejeweled cross dangling on a gold chain sits in my office, telling me about his conversations with God, the "real meaning" of the cosmos and the deeper truth behind all surface appearances.
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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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