Phantoms in the Brain ,
Brain can be defined as a 150 pound lump of jelly that could be held on a single hand . But that uninteresting jelly can comprehend the vastness of the interstellar space . Comprehend esoteric theories , speak about itself in a recursive way thats honestly ‘mind-blowing’ 🙂 .
V.S Ramachandran’s enthralling account on the workings of the brain (Phantoms in the brain) is a masterpiece . Amazing blend of science / humour / wit that elucidates the intricacies of the brain with such simplicity .
Rama throws light on the working of the specific sections of the brain by the way of his curious patients . Having solved a multitude of cases from phantom limbs to zombies in the brain , the author gives a birds eye view on the working of the brain .
Have not found any book that blends brain science seamlessly with simplicity and make even a casual reader awe stuck with the workings of the brain .
Some of the curious cases Rama Covers :
The phantom Limb phenomenon :
People whose hands got amputated due to accidents still feel the presence of a phantom limb . Oh that’s cool , they can feel an arm which is not present . Why in the world people should complain on that . There is a catch here , they feel excruciating pain at times in their phantom limbs 😦 . For some of them the phantom limb is stuck in an awkward position which is even more weird .
To say the long story short , there are pathways in the brain that still feel the presence of the arm . When we move our hand the brain gives signals to the hand that makes our hands to move . When we are moving visual response confirms that the hand is moving . But in case of a phantom limb patient there is a curious remapping in the nervous pathways . Rama devised a simple but elegant device using a mirror , and tricked the brain by looking at the mirror image of the right hand as its left hand .
You look like my Mother but you are not my mother !:
A perfectly lucid guy who had a brain injury , claims that ‘You look like my mother ! But you are not my mother ‘ . He is in fact not schizophrenic , intelligent enough to argue that ‘why the move from the tree was a mistake’ 🙂 .
Every image we see gets related to the emotional centre of the brain , through a almond shaped gateway called amygdala . Its the autonomous nervous system of the brain . When we see our parents , the autonomous system fires initiating a plethora of actions in the body . Examples of them include increase in sweating etc . When the image is not getting relayed to the emotional center this kind of a disorder is quite normal .
The Freudian angle to this defect explained in the book is as averred by the author is ludicrous . The author also talks highly of Freud at times , and how Freud over-did the psychoanalytic theory .
This book is a treasure trove of knowledge on the workings of the brain . The humour in the book is thoroughly enjoyable . Go for it 🙂 !