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Publisher's Summary

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 such 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, and how we make decisions, deceive ourselves, and dream.

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.

©1998 V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee (P)2013 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Enthralling . . . eloquent." ( The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 07-18-14

Really fascinating stuff!

Ramachandran addresses various neurological disorders and oddities with his own insights into how these problems might arise. He discusses the roles of the different sides of the brain and how injuries or defects in various structures can affect the patient in really diverse and odd ways. He describes cases of patients who are in denial of a paralyzed limb, those who have lost awareness of the left side of their bodies, those who are savants, those who have religious experiences during epileptic episodes along with many other interesting and some times controversial topics.

Ramachandran is a brilliant neuroscientist who has a very inquisitive and curious mind which leads him to ask questions that other scientists avoid such as the role of the brain in religion or multiple personality disorder. Just the fact that he is not afraid to explore these ideas makes this book even more interesting for me. Much of the presented information is based not only on the brain's physiology but also the author's theories. Often he performs simple accompanying experiments which usually provide support for his theories.

The narration is excellent. I highly recommend this book if brain biology, physiology, disorders, and functioning are of interest to you.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful To See...

another book by Ramachandran on Audible! If you liked his Tell-Tale Brain, you will love Phantoms In The Brain. The real life "Dr. House" (he actually seems much nicer in his youtube videos!) of neurology, Ramachandran shares with us his discoveries in the realm (mostly) right-brain damage and disorder--and how he often enough finds insight not only into the neurological structure of personality, but also into care and healing of those afflicted. From the perfectly bizarre Cotard's Delusion to the puzzling (and nearly comical) Capgras Syndrome, Ramachandran takes us on an interesting and often entertaining tour of the very strange things that can go wrong with our brains.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Unique Neuroscience from a Unique Neuroscientist

I studied Dr. Ramachandran's work during my undergraduate degree. In the flood of scientists and peer review, his work stood out enough that even years later I was still talking about some of his theories. When I saw his name attached to this book, I purchased it without hesitation.

Dr. Ramachandran's work in neuroscience is stunning. Once you hear it, you can't believe that we ever thought anything different. He draws beautiful, wide connections across the brain and simultaneously across theories of the brain. And after doing so, he distills it all down to plain language, communicating his ideas effortlessly.

Neil Shah does an excellent job on this one. I have nothing negative to say about his performance.

I finished weeks ago and I'm still talking about pseudocyesis and its link to social norms, among other interesting facts that I learned from this book. If you have any interest in the brain, it is well worth the time.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Extremely lucid

The book presented a very complicated subject in a highly comprehensible manner. I particularly liked the narrator's imitation of some of the medical subjects' spoken responses.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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My small brain!

Even my very small and little educated brain found this to be a fantastic read (actually hear as I had this on audible). I admit I had to rewind loads of times not to just figure out what was being told but because I was so fascinated with what I was learning I often found myself in bars a beer in hand beaming or LOL at the astonishing mysteries of the brain.

I’ve read Tale Tell and can’t get enough of this field would love recommendations!!!

I loved this!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Spectacular read

Amazing in every way. Enjoyable to listen to, and highly recommended to those who have an infinity for knowledge. Leaves you with more questions than answers- something only a great book will accomplish.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

Couldn't get enough of it, if only it was longer! The narrator did a great job, although I'd have prefered Dr Ramachandran to narrate, I felt as though some of his humour was lost with this narrator. All in all I'd still recommend this book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating exploration of the mind

Superb approach for those interested in neurology but lacking a scientific background. Ramachandran tackles many truly unique conditions, providing accompanying patient stories to ill. These are many great examples of how truth is stranger than fiction and how much we've learned and how little we truly know about the human brain.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Well done

The narrator is brilliant, not many can match up to him. Dr. Ramachandran does a great job. I'll look for more of his work. I give him a five star, heads up

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Drawn out, listen at increased speed

Struggled to finish. Too many literary embellishments and repetitions, could have been shorter and more straightforward. Clinical cases and questions raised are very interesting. As a neurologist, I can see this is clearly written for the general audience and frequently too basic for a physician. Fun aspect for me - I'm at UCSD currently and recognized the places and neurologists he mentions in the book. Great discussion about the "self".

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  • Elena D. Pascal
  • 06-28-17

next best thing to Oliver Sacks

Someone on goodreads called this book 'best popular neuroscience book written by someone not named Oliver Sacks' (paraphrasing).
I might be inclined to agree.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful