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The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human | [V. S. Ramachandran]

The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2011 V.S. Ramachandran (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Ramachandran produces an exhilarating and at times funny text that invites discussion and experimentation." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (239 )
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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 12-25-11
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 12-25-11

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "Great if you like understanding how brains work"

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Do take some time to look at the included PDF before you start listening otherwise you will be frustrated at various points. The book does repeat some things from other of Ramachandran???s books, but it was all stuff that was interesting enough to bear repeating. The book also becomes speculative at points, but the author notes where experimental results end and speculation begins and he also points out that speculation is an important part of the scientific method. The speculation becomes a little wild near the end of the book when the author attempts to frame art in term of neuroscience, but it was interesting to think about nevertheless. The book mostly describes unusual neurological conditions, links them to specific brain regions, and describes experiments to test related theories. This is quite good fun if you are in to that sort of thing ??? if you are not, it might seem dry.

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 03-19-13
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 03-19-13 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "Humans are special but not too special."

    The book gave me more reasons why humans are different from anything else known in the universe and how we got that way.

    I've been looking for a book like this one which takes all the anomalies and traumas that have happened to individuals and weaves them all together in a coherent story about how our mind works and doesn't work. The mind is a wonderful thing to understand and this book goes a long way in helping me understand it.

    The author has one of the best droll sense of humors I have ever come across while listening and he made me laugh out loud multiple times. The narrator really knew how to add the proper amount of drollness and added to the experience.

    This is one of the few books where I lost something by listening instead of reading. I would get confused when he talked about some of the illustrations of the optical illusions under discussion and when he talks and names different areas of the brain, I would get lost and forget which region does what. Overall, even if I had read the book with the maps of the brain, I wouldn't have followed the names of the regions of the brain, but be warned, it does get very confusing while listening.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul FAYETTEVILLE, NEW YORK, United States 02-13-11
    Paul FAYETTEVILLE, NEW YORK, United States 02-13-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Excellent book, fascinating, and well narrated."

    Takes a potentially boring and tedious subject and makes it fascinating. One of those rare books whose perspective is a combination of entertaining, enlightening and understandable. This book is well narrated too. Actually kept me awake and entranced during a long boring trip. After reading this book you will have a much better sense of how the brain works, how science advances and how top of the profession physicians think.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14 Member Since 2005
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    "Really sets itself apart in the second half"

    There's a ton here. The first half of the book covers a lot that's pretty well discussed elsewhere, but in the second half, Ramachandran just explodes into a huge fireball of ideas that are expansive not only in their reach but are also impressive in their novelty and creativity. You get the feeling that the only thing keeping him back is time. It's definitely not a lack of important questions and well-designed experiments.

    I especially liked his discussion of art and aesthetics and his speculations on why we like abstract art and what makes some art almost irresistible to the human brain. He comes to it with a refreshingly different perspective due to his Indian background. He's unwaveringly scientific, but seems to have a much greater pool of examples to draw from due to the vast cultural landscape India offers. A lot of the book is speculative, but the speculation isn't far-fetched, certainly nowhere near as speculative as most of what today's physicists write about, and he clearly indicates what's solid and what's remains to be tested, often suggesting experiments for others to try.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 02-20-12
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 02-20-12 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "What a welcome addition to the Audible selection!"

    At last, the great Indian neurologist Ramachandran comes to Audible! I have enjoyed his lectures on youtube for years, and it is great to see him in audible book form. The Tell-Tale Brain is in the same cannon as medical tales told by Sachs and Selzer, though Ramachandran does not quite have the literary turn of either of these two writers. He does present his material for both expert and layman (both will readily understand if proper attention is given the work), and there is humor and cultural references to move things along and make the material easier to relate to, though again, he doesn't quite have the nearly stand-up style of say a Pinker. Nonetheless, there is simply no one who can render the oddities and complexities of the brain and perception like the great Ramachandran, perhaps the best medical genius of our time, our Einstein of the neuron. This book is worth every bit you pay for it and more, and I certainly hope to see more works by this explorer of the mind and brain on Audible soon.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn 11-04-11
    Lynn 11-04-11
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    "Great Book for the General Audience"

    Deemed the “Marco Polo” of neuroscience by Richard Dawkins, V. S. Ramachandran brings his thinking and research to the general reader in The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human. If you have no background in the field of neuroscience or neuroplasticity, this is about as good a place to start as any. If you have been reading literature available for the general public in this area, the book is still very helpful. Ramachandran is a graceful and clear writer. The benefit of this book is its breadth of coverage. For example, he visits phantom limb syndrome, devotes a chapter to the relationship between seeing and knowing, and autism is addressed in a very thoughtful, generous manner. Most interesting me to personally was his discussion of aesthetics and the brain. This is an excellent book and I hope that we hear more from Ramachandran in the near future. The reading of David Drummond is very good.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Greg Wilson 01-28-11
    Greg Wilson 01-28-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Disappointing"

    Having read Ramachandran in the past I was looking forward to this latest offering. Unfortunately the first half of the book is simply a rehash of his previous books. Overall this book was a disappointment and I can't recommend it

    12 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Conor Newton, MA, United States 04-25-11
    Conor Newton, MA, United States 04-25-11 Member Since 2003
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    "Some novel science plus a lot of speculation"

    Having heard of Ramachandran's work before reading this book, I had high expectations. Some of those were fulfilled, in hearing about synaesthesia and mirror neurons. However there is also a huge amount of plain discussion and even sheer speculation about art, beauty, and the evolution of human preferences. For example, he invents a list of principles of aesthetics, without reference to any artists or prior thinking on the subject. Overall there was enough science to make it interesting. The narration is a bit breathless, like listening to 777-FILM.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Tampa, Florida, United States 05-24-14
    Matt Tampa, Florida, United States 05-24-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Top Notch Brain Stuff"
    Where does The Tell-Tale Brain rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This book is very entertaining, and high quality neuroscience. it is fairly easy to follow, considering its topic. i would put it in the top five books of its type. i think in some ways it is better than David Eaglemen's Incognito, but would put it slightly behind Steven Pinker or Leonard Mlodniow. My only reason for giving four starts, instead of 5, is because the book feels a little light or incomplete, like Dr. R has stopped short, perhaps there is still science to be made. All that said, i would definitely buy his next book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pony Atlanta 05-19-14
    Pony Atlanta 05-19-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Fascinating, enlightening and a little bizzare"

    I absolutely love the way the author explains the brain, the most dynamic description. For someone who loves neurobiology but has never officially studied it, this was a very new way of thinking about the brain, so fluid versus static and compartmentalized. The portions on his actual research are much more entrancing then those on his speculations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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