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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

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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 12-25-11
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 12-25-11 Member Since 2015

    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.

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14 Member Since 2013
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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.

    4 of 4 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 2014

    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
  •  
    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.

    6 of 7 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 2011
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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
  •  
    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 2015
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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 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Smith 04-14-15
    P. Smith 04-14-15 Member Since 2013

    ps

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    "A good read/listen"
    What did you love best about The Tell-Tale Brain?

    The personal anecdotes made this book much more understandable and enjoyable


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Tell-Tale Brain?

    The pt. who "knew" his mother was an imposter


    What about David Drummond’s performance did you like?

    very well delivered


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    A road trip through the brain.


    Any additional comments?

    I knew most of what was in this book but it was very entertaining, and I enjoyed it very
    much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Reynolds Cheney, WA 03-14-15
    Amanda Reynolds Cheney, WA 03-14-15 Member Since 2015

    Odin Oddly

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    "Fascinating!"

    I loved how differently this made me look at my own mind. It was informative, it was written in a way the lay-person could understand, and it was fun to listen to. I would recommend this book to people interested in the brain, in psychology, or anyone involved with childhood development or caregiving. I will be listening again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Etheraldreamer 02-10-15
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    "Insight in paradigm changing doses"
    If you could sum up The Tell-Tale Brain in three words, what would they be?

    Illuminating, Explanatory, Psycho-Physics


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Tell-Tale Brain?

    Hearing of the detailed experiments devised to tease out information away from the variables. Singling out what you want to look at is difficult in every area of science, but such a tall task in the sometimes seemingly chaotic soup of the brain's many processes.


    Have you listened to any of David Drummond’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not before. I was very impressed. Initially upon downloading I was disappointed to find it was not read by Ramachandran himself as I've grown fond of his endearing accent from many hours of lecture online. This proved not to bother me no more than a minute or two into the recording. Mr. Drummond does an outstanding job being clear while still managing to exude some of the boundless enjoyment and fascination that should come from any pop science offering.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    You, the you behind your eyes, are a vivid hallucination pieced together by many subtle seemingly disconnected processes. Whenever any of these processes fail, you change radically. Follow us as we discover some of the myriad pillars of consciousness. As we discover who you really are.


    Any additional comments?

    Highly recommend a fairly firm grasp of evolutionary theory. Though it can likely be enjoyed without a university level grasp, much subtlety (read elegant beauty) would be lost.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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