What Makes us Human? The Story of a Curious Researcher and His Quest for Answers in Weirdest Places

May 23, 11 What Makes us Human? The Story of a Curious Researcher and His Quest for Answers in Weirdest Places

Posted by in Books, Neuroscience, Videos

Vilayanur Subramanian “Rama” Ramachandran is a remarkable man. A neuroscientist and professor at the University of California, San Diego, Ramachandran is also a very curious man. He is curious about what truly makes us human. He devoted his career to answering questions such as: What is consciousness? Where did language come from? What is introspection? Why do we all have a unitary perception of beauty? and the list could go on. In order to find answers to all these questions, Ramachandran turned to illness. And not to any illness. He studied some of the weirdest neurological syndromes in the world – people with Capgras syndrome (who believe their mother is some look-alike robot) or with Cotard syndrome (who believe they are dead); he studied people with “phantom limbs” (having pain in their non-existent amputated limbs) as well as people who had out of body experiences. He looked for answers in the depths of illness and wrote several books about his amazing journey. The latest one, definitely worth reading, is The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes US Human. The book is filled with countless fascinating case studies and Rama’s conclusions are, more often than not, surprising and counter-intuitive. If you don’t have time to read it all, you can at least read a great review of this book here. Ramachandran shows, once more, that our brain is like a treasure chest filled with the most amazing secrets. It’s hard to believe that one can ever grow tired exploring its mysteries. Here is his great speech at TED, where he gives us a glimpse into his fascinating research. I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I...

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Can the Brain Explain Your Mind? by Colin McGinn | The New York Review of Books

Mar 04, 11 Can the Brain Explain Your Mind? by Colin McGinn | The New York Review of Books

Posted by in Books, Neuroscience

Can the Brain Explain Your Mind? by Colin McGinn | The New York Review of Books. Colin McGinn makes an excellent review of V.S. Ramachandran’s book – The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human. Here is an excerpt of his review in The New York Review of Books. I hope it will convince you that neurology is truly fascinating and worthwhile for us, non-scientists too, since it opens a gate into the amazing workings of our own minds. “Is studying the brain a good way to understand the mind? Does psychology stand to brain anatomy as physiology stands to body anatomy? In the case of the body, physiological functions—walking, breathing, digesting, reproducing, and so on—are closely mapped onto discrete bodily organs, and it would be misguided to study such functions independently of the bodily anatomy that implements them. If you want to understand what walking is, you should take a look at the legs, since walking is what legs do. Is it likewise true that if you want to understand thinking you should look at the parts of the brain responsible for thinking? Is thinking what the brain does in the way that walking is what the body does? V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, thinks the answer is definitely yes. He is a brain psychologist: he scrutinizes the underlying anatomy of the brain to understand the manifest process of the mind. He approvingly quotes Freud’s remark “Anatomy is destiny”—only he means brain anatomy, not the anatomy of the rest of the...

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