In this landmark work, V. S. Ramachandran investigates strange, unforgettable cases—from patients who believe they are dead to sufferers of phantom limb syndrome. With a storyteller’s eye for compelling case studies and a researcher’s flair for new approaches to age-old questions, Ramachandran tackles the most exciting and controversial topics in brain science, including language, creativity, and consciousness.
Praise for The Tell-Tale Brain
"When VS Ramachandran, one of the world’s most influential neurologists, wants to get inside a human head, he doesn’t reach for his scalpel or MRI scanner. Instead, like Sherlock Holmes (to whom heis often compared), he seizes on an oddity in a case study, then begins a pleasing process of deduction interspersed with leaps of excitingly creative thought. This absorbing book charts the acclaimed experiments he has performed around the world and at the University of California’s cutting-edge Centre for the Brain, and explains how they have helped unravel the workings of the human mind."
"Ramachandran deftly links together topics, such as phantom limbs and synesthesia… before going on to address the other great questions of psychology. Questions like the evolution of language, the nature of aesthetic appreciation and consciousness … his greatest strength is his ability to turn neurological case studies into illuminating experiments."
"'What a piece of work is man!' How many monkeys would it have taken to come up with that tag from Hamlet? Are we really no more than 'chimps with a software upgrade'? Yes and – emphatically – no, comes the reply from neurologist VS Ramachandran. Our brains are those of apes: Ramachandran is in no doubt of that, yet at the same time we're uniquely special too. His life's work has been about getting to grips with the mental mechanisms that make the miraculous mundane. He goes to real-life clinical cases for evidence of exactly how the brain behaves in action or examines the experimental record for clues to the wonderful intricacy and astonishing scope of the human mind."
Compared with physics and chemistry, says Ramachandran, neuroscience is a young upstart. But it’s growing up fast. This book, his “modest contribution to the grand attempt to crack the code of the human brain”, is written with all his synapses lit up like supernovas. His mission to educate and entertain is perfectly achieved: he is Professor Brainstorm in a white coat pulling ideas like plums out of half-baked theories and rethinking the recipe. Like Sherlock Holmes, he imagines what might be true and tests it for probability. Neuroscience and stand-up comedy collide with eureka results.
"No one is better than V.S. Ramachandran at combining minute, careful observation with ingenious experiments and bold, adventurous theorizing. THE TELL-TALE BRAIN is Ramachandran at his best, a profoundly intriguing and compelling guide to the intricacies of the human brain."
“Ramachandran is the modern wizard of neuroscience. In THE TELL-TALE BRAIN, we see the genius at work, tackling extraordinary cases, many of which mark turning points in neuroscientific knowledge. We see him hypothesizing, experimenting, failing, having epiphanies, succeeding. In this utterly entertaining account, we see how these fascinating cases fit together, and how he uses them to explain, from a Darwinian point of view, how our brains, though evolved from those of other animals, become neurologically distinct and fundamentally human.”
"Much of The Tell-Tale Brain… is a general tour of neuroscience. There are lively treatments of three areas in which Ramachandran has himself done pioneering work: visual perception, pain in amputated “phantom” limbs, and synaesthesia… Ramachandran is an exceptionally inventive researcher who tosses off suggestions at a dizzying pace."
"A Holmesian look at what we learn about human nature when the brain goes wrong, written by one of the leading neuroscientists in the world."
"I cannot imagine a better account of the sweep of contemporary neuroscience… The Tell-Tale Brain explains how and why the human brain makes us “trule unique and special, not ‘just’ another species of ape”… excellent… will give pleasure to anyone interested in original thinking about the brain."
"[he] shares his vast knowledge… with enthusiasm and considerable wit… The case studies herein are like something straight out of science fiction, and genuinely dubmfounding. His passion is contagious; his book is not to be missed."
"V.S. Ramachandran… writes engagingly on the fevers, frets and disorders that afflict our most precious and elusive organ… The Tell-Tale Brain [has]… absorbing puzzles and case histories."
"With humour and humanity, he examines examples of extreme behavior and explains how the most baffling and bizarre brain disorders tell stories that help us to understand the uniqueness and complexity of our evolution as human beings leading normal lives."
"As eminent neuroscientist, Ramachanrdan is a versatile populariser who draws many interesting lessons from his research… his speculations are never less than interesting. He does not stop with language. Later chapters cover consciousness an the nature of art. He is full of ideas and can illustrate many with tales from his neuroscience experience… fascinating stuff."
“Ramachandran has written an astonishing book. His humanity, humour and scientific genius inform every passage. The Tell-Tale Brain is a veritable Voyage of the Beagle through the terrain of brain science and psychology.”