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

por V. S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee

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1,930168,585 (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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Mostrando 1-5 de 16 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
In 2012, for the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, New Scientist held a contest for its readers to vote for a curated list of what it called the 25 Most Influential Popular Science books. I resolved to eventually read all of them and after a couple year hiatus, this makes number 17 for me.

I’m not sure why it was on the list. It reads popular science enough but …

Dr. Ramachandran says “Another perverse streak of mine is that I've always been drawn to the exception rather than to the rule in every science that I've studied.”
That turns out to be a good thing because how often do disorders/syndromes/damage tell us things about “normal” functions? Quite a bit, if never enough. That is what this book is about and if abnormal gets your juices flowing, then this is for you.

I like this: “There is something distinctly odd about a hairless neotenous primate that has evolved into a species that can look back over its own shoulder and ask questions about its origins. “

And I wish I knew more doctors who approached diagnosis/treatment with “Finally, when studying and treating a patient, it is the physician's duty always to ask himself, ‘What does it feel like to be in the patient's shoes?’ ‘What if I were?’ "

[on “seeing”] “So the first step in understanding perception is to get rid of the idea of images in the brain and to begin thinking about symbolic descriptions of objects and events in the external world. “

[Candid honesty get a star bump] “People often assume that science is serious business, that it is always "theory driven," that you generate lofty conjectures based on what you already know and then proceed to design experiments specifically to test these conjectures. Actually real science is more like a fishing expedition than most of my colleagues would care to admit. “

He has a sense of humor: “The hypothalamus can be regarded, then, as the "brain" of this archaic, ancillary nervous system. The third output drives actual behaviors, often remembered by the mnemonic the "four F's"­ fighting, fleeing, feeding and sexual behavior. “

But he loses major points with: “Contrary to what many of my colleagues believe, the message preached by physicians like Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil is not just New Age psychobabble.”

Mentioning the two cranks is bad enough. Giving either credit for anything drops this a star down from the bump. Calling it 2.5 rounded down. ( )
  Razinha | Feb 7, 2024 |
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 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
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.
―Laurence Miller
The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder.
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To my mother, Meenakshi
To my father, Subramanian
To my brother, Ravi
To Diane, Mani and Jayakrishna
To all my former teachersin India and England
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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