The observable examined

The tell-tale human brain

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I just finished reading a book entitled “The tell-tale human brain” by V.S.Ramachandran. [For those of you who do not know the name, Ramachandran, is a world renowned neuroscientist. He is a remarkably gifted scientist and has conducted many path breaking studies that have significantly advanced the status quo in our understanding of the human brain. Some people even think he may be a Nobel prize candidate for his pioneering work in neuroscience]. His research is one of the contributing causes to the many neuroX subdisciplines (neurotheology, neuroeconomics, neuromarketing to name a few) that have mushroomed in academia and industry.

This book is a good synthesis of much of his research. If you ignore his not so great sense of humor and sometimes chest beating, there is a lot of great material in the book to ponder on. What I love about his books is his rich catalog of neurological patients and their attendant deficits. Through their abnormalities, we are lead to an understanding of the inner workings of a normal human brain.  My favorite is the “god center” located in the temporal lobes. Patients with temporal lobe epilepsies see visions of god!! [My advisor used to say, irreverently, that the claims of received wisdom from God are actually manifestations of a hallucinating brain. I must say I agree with him.]

Some of the topics include mirror neurons and their role in social cognition, neural plasticity, synesthesia (blending of the senses), impostors moms and dads. It is utterly fascinating when we consider the remarkable insight that our unified percept of the external reality is really the orchestration of many interacting functionally specific brain modules [the timing and sychronization of these processes are also extensively studied topics in neuroscience]. Blindsight, a phenomenon, described in some detail, will make you wonder about what we really mean when we talk about consciousness.

Ultimately, the book is about what sets humans apart in the animal kingdom. The book format allows the author to speculate a great deal. If you pick this book up, I urge you to do so with a fairly wide open mind.


Written by asterix98

August 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm

One Response

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  1. dear suresh,

    I am reading a book called “Phantoms of the Brain” by the same
    author – really makes for fantastic reading – i end up reading
    the same chapter again and again as for me it takes more time
    to understand and absorb.

    usha vaideeswaran

    August 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm

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