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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

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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

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.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 03-19-13

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.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • FAYETTEVILLE, NEW YORK, United States
  • 02-13-11

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Loved it

Would have been better with the accompanying pdf of images mentioned throughout for reference, it becomes hard to follow in some chapters without them

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • San Jose, CA United States
  • 10-01-15

Fascinating

This is an interesting survey of the functions of various parts of the brain, as well as illustrative stories of various disfunctions to walk you through the functions given to that area of the brain. There were a lot of illuminating examples. His style is more popular than Oliver Sack's Awakening, which was overly clinical for my tastes. This also doesn't appear to be targeted at medical students either, although he does describe various ideas for experiments to explore further possible theories around particular functions. His own technique of discovering is quite simple and practical. My own bone to pick, is that in some of the early chapters his descriptions of women felt overly sensual. I was feeling some discomfort in the descriptions. I suggest that might just be me, but I'd be curious if others noticed anything similar.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Raleigh
  • greensboro, NC, United States
  • 02-27-13

the most human organ / a guided tour

? just what exactly do we know about how the brain works
? if we did know more, could we then understand ourselves better
? who'd be bright enough to both understand and explain all this

v.s. ramachandran is more than up to this monumental task
the explosion of new detailed brain studies provides his raw material
his near mythic status in the medical community provides his authority

years ago using only a mirror and a q-tip he unraveled "phantom pain"
this sad, untreatable condition had been recognized for centuries
it took someone of ramachandran's blazing insight to solve its' riddle

he clearly sees himself as flying at an altitude that others only dream of
a lack of confidence doesn't seem to be a problem he has ever had
but it takes that sort of hubris to tackle an issue this vast and significant

the anatomical nomenclature will probably over whelm some readers
the rapid pace of new discoveries means he'll need a new edition in a few years
this is a very exciting time in history to be an investigational neuroscientist

the most exciting sections of the book dealt with neuro-plasticity
? can nerves and nerve signals be repaired or rerouted
? can we contemplate therapy for diseases we once thought were untreatable

recent advances in neuro-imaging and function studies rival the discovery of DNA
we now have a window into that most human and complex of all organs
this book is a compelling first step in understanding this bold, new world

















2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Goldberg
  • Southbury, CT, United States
  • 09-01-11

Good Book, Format problems

This is a very interesting book, however, it relys heavily on pictures, even devoting 2 chapters to visual esthetics and the brain. Difficult to follow without easy access to the pictures. I'm on a kindle, which I guess doesn't support pictures in audible, although I get pictures in my text books.

I think it's sort of a rip-off to get the audio without the pictures. I've tried looking around in 'My Library' for the 'accompanying reference material' but I can't find it. I do like the content of the book and would recommend it as a text book. The narration is good.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful