The Tell-Tale brain by Dr. V.S.Ramachandran
By- Bujala Sai Nishitha
Kamineni institute of medical sciences
As a voracious reader of fiction books, very rarely am I interested in the mundane and boring genre of non-fiction. But I have to say, when I read this book as a part of the project I was working on, in second year, I was stunned by the sheer number of ingenious hypotheses that border on brilliant madness (equaling Einstein I would say) making up an integral portion of the book. V.S.Ramachandran, a professor of Neuroscience and psychology at University of California San Diego, weaves tales inspired from true events in his career as a neuroscientist, talking about the most peculiar cases- there is an amputee who can still feel an itch in the place where his amputated hand was supposed to be, a man who develops Capgras syndrome after an accident and thinks his wife is an imposter, cases of synesthesia where senses are commingled and Cotard’s where the patient truly believes he is dead (they all seem like movie stories but trust me they aren’t). Dr.Ramachandran’s main thesis on the much controversial mirror neurons where he describes unique cells that allow a creature to observe its fellows and perform the same action is something that he believes helped in evolution by bringing self-awareness and empathy and may also have been responsible for the development of autism.
An excerpt from the book-
“As heady as our progress has been, we need to stay completely honest with ourselves and acknowledge that we have only discovered a tiny fraction of what there is to know about the human brain. But the modest amount that we have discovered makes for a story more exciting than any Sherlock Holmes novel. I feel certain that as progress continues through the coming decades, the conceptual twists and technological turns we are in for are going to be at least as mind bending, at least as intuition shaking, and as simultaneously humbling and exalting to the human spirit as the conceptual revolutions that upended classical physics a century ago. The adage that fact is stranger than fiction seems to be especially true for the workings of the brain. In this book I hope I can convey at least some of the wonder and awe that my colleagues and I have felt over the years as we have patiently peeled back the layers of the mind-brain mystery. Hopefully it will kindle your interest in what the pioneering neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield called “the organ of destiny” and Woody Allen, in a less reverential mood, referred to as man’s second favorite organ.”
The writing is simple and is beautifully crafted targeting both medical and non-medical audience.
To the few people that know me, know how passionate I am when it comes to the subject of Neurology and Neurosciences. The book was where my curiosity took root, growing over the years as I asked bizarre questions and understood not every answer is in my medicine textbook and acknowledged the importance of research in the ever-growing branch of medicine. It’s like reading Harry Potter for the first time as a kid and looking at the world with a new lens filled with un explored territories and curiosity and even magic. That is the level of impact this book had and I hope one day the author gets to read this and know how he changed the life of one very insignificant loner in the 21st century at one corner of the world (Sorry I can’t help it; I have a flair for drama)
If you like this book, you may also like-
- The Phantoms in the brain by Dr. Ramachandran
- The man who mistook his wife for a hat by Oliver Sacks