Books: Phantoms in the Brain

Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind

Wow. I honestly don’t want to say too much, because I really think you should go and read this book yourself. All of the reader reviews are right: it’s fascinating, it’s educational and most importantly, it is very very readable.

I’ve seen Ramachandran talk live (at the Royal Institution) and the enthusiasm and showmanship that he presented then really comes through in this book.

I actually got two copies for Christmas – one from Ben and one from my dad. Confusion over Amazon wishlists – Ben obviously doesn’t know how to use them! Bless him. So rather than send the book back, we gave one copy right back to my dad (as he is all about consciousness, phenomenology, and the mystery of the mind).

Now, it took me three weeks to read this. It took my dad one flight back to Dubai. He reads insanely fast! But he says he couldn’t put it down. He’s a very brain-modular sort of person, and his favourite chapters were towards the end, when Ramachandran discusses qualia, and the source and purpose of consciousness.

Personally, I’m all about the earlier chapters, when Ramachandran looks at a variety of different neurological phenomena. He presents us with a variety of case studies, each with very particular forms of brain damage, leading to very unusual problems. There are his famous “phantom limb” patients – people who, following an amputation, can still feel sensation in their absent limb. Later, he returns to the subject of phantoms, by discussing the mindboggling (but increasingly rare) phenomenon of pseudocyesis, or false pregnancy.

But I don’t want to discuss this book at length – I feel it would detract from your own experience when reading it.

If you like Oliver Sacks, you will love this. If you like “unusualness” and maybe even mystery stories, this is for you. Go get it. There are even some optical illusions you can play with (just don’t do them on the train – you’ll look like an idiot).

Don’t fancy reading? Ramachandran has also presented his cases in a two-part BBC4 documentary.


4 thoughts on “Books: Phantoms in the Brain

  1. That’ an awesome book 🙂 I have read this like 3 or 4 times!! Also, all the books from Oliver Sacks are right up there too 🙂 Cheers.


  2. Pingback: The Mind vs. Brain Debate (What is Consciousness?) «

  3. Pingback: Synaesthesia « Unravelled

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s