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Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  17,631 ratings  ·  691 reviews
Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran is internationally renowned for uncovering answers to the deep and quirky questions of human nature that few scientists have dared to address. His bold insights about the brain are matched only by the stunning simplicity of his experiments -- using such low-tech tools as cotton swabs, glasses of water and dime-store mirrors. In Phantoms in ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 18th 1999 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published August 19th 1998)
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Prakitesh Deka "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat" by Oliver Sacks…more "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat" by Oliver Sacks(less)

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Petra - trying to lose weight is major deprivation
Ramachandran is not as touchy-feely an author as Oliver Sacks, but the pair of them cover the same ground. They both write about neurological problems, the symptoms expressed as behaviour and anecdotes concerned with the people who suffer from them. Ramachandran's approach is that of a scientist and doctor first, the people he describes are very much patients. Sacks is more 'oh look - this is interesting, maybe even exciting, we (he and the patient) can explore this together'. They both know the ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Francis Crick—the "Crick" half of the famous "Watson and Crick" duo that discovered the structure of DNA—coined a term (and used it as the title for his book on the subject) called The Astonishing Hypothesis, which represents the idea that all human cognition and perception—every emotion, belief, existential crisis, perceived sight, sound, smell, etc—is essentially the product of (or equivalent to) complex clusters and pathways of neurons and the synaptic connections of neurotransmitters that bi ...more
Riku Sayuj

I think this was a good book to read after reading Susan Sontag. While Sontag says that the more we attribute a disease to our mind and to our attitudes the more it betrays our ignorance, Ramachandran tries to answer questions like "Can your mental attitude really help cure asthma and cancer?" - For example, VSR is courageous enough to venture into esoteric areas such as mind-body connection and divine visions and sound them out with the backing of science and a curious imagination.

The Victorian
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing

This is the best book about neuroscience and cog sci for a popular audience ever written by someone not named Oliver Sacks.

Ramachandran is, as one of the cover reviews says, profoundly sane, and has a real sense of what you can get from the scientific method and what you can't, and really understands the way questions that used to be philosophical are inching into the realm of the empirical.

He also is sometimes hilarious, really up on the other great popular scientific thinkers out th
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, medicine
Few years back I read Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales and was amazed by the cases presented. This book is even more astounding; human brain is such a mystery even today.

I knew about amputees’ phantom limbs but not to this extent. And these are not the only cases: one woman did not recognize her arm, saying it’s his brother’s; others completely lost perception of their left part of the body and surroundings. Another, after a car accident, did not
Amir Tesla
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a direct flight into to the Limbo ...
This is a book about psychology, neuroscience, all the good stuff. Ramachandran is delightfully witty and approaches the big and small questions of psychology and neuroscience with curiosity and equal doses of scepticism and speculation alike. One of the truly good things about Phantoms in the Brain is that it is written with humility and humour. Ramachandran manages to expound whilst being hilarious and without 'dumbing down', so to speak.

The book isn't an overtly serious-nature thesis so it f
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I begin to like Dr. Ramachandran. Such a remarkable, intelligent, and humble man, someone who would make a nice companion during long campfires. The phantom limbs this book famously talks about is well-known now. But it talks about much more than that. The brain is after all a complex thing. We hardly understand how it ticks and many things that pass on as bogus, like clairvoyance, are not completely unprovable given the limitations of brain study. That Ramachandran is willing to stray into the ...more
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In medicine, you should know the physiology in order to understand the pathological conditions of certain organs well. But in the case of neurology (the study of the nervous system) and especially the study of the brain it is different. as long as physiology and functional neuroscience is not known and complete compare to other fields of medicine, physicians and scientists often use brain pathologies as a way of approaching the physiology and function of certain parts of the brain. In this book, ...more
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Stela by: Corina Neagoș

This is the second book about neuro-psychology I've read and it has been an entirely new experience. "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" was (and reflected in the title as such) mainly amusing. On the other hand, "Phantoms in the Brain" is (as, again, suggested by the title) quite disturbing. The first focused on weird cases per se, collecting stories only because they were odd, hence unique. The second looks at the same kind of stories as unexpected ways to understand and generalize the in
THANK GOD "My both hemispheres work while typing these".. :)

Hurray! what a book. I love all the brain stuffs, especially all the weird (quite lol) cases of patients!
how can a person feel that one half of his body is not present or feels like someone's (say his friends/brother...)

how can a person feels pain in his left hand and yelling "god, its hurts like hell"??
actually his left hand is amputated, just a phantom hand)

why a person feels orgasm in his left leg while having sex with his girl frie
Daniel Solera
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, psychology
This book ended up on my reading list for several reasons, but I didn't decide to really get into it until I noticed that Oliver Sacks had written the foreword. Having read a few of his books, I decided to give Dr. Ramachandran's look into the peculiar world of outlier psychology a shot.

The book is a fascinating read. It talks about the brain's elusive behavior and how it is possible that so many bizarre cases of abnormal psychology exist. Many cases that we would describe as crazy, he breaks do
Very interesting, informative, and easy to follow along, even with all the medical jargon!

I will say though the last chapter didn't seem to flow as easy in this regard as the rest of the book did, but I won't hold it against the author haha.

I would definitely recommend this book to those interested in the topic!
Tanja Berg
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book about the workings of the brain and the illusion of self. Wonderful!
Mohamed al-Jamri
My notes while reading the book:

The book doesn't give you ready theories, but takes you through the process of discovery.

Raises many questions on how the brain works. Very interesting topics.

He uses many experiments to probe and investigate. He's influenced by Thomas Kuhn and uses his terminology very often.

Preface by Oliver Sacks

V. S. Ramachandran. Phantom limb. Other topics too that show how our brain works in what Rama calls "experimental epistemology".

The books he liked when he was young. Pr
Alex Zakharov
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating bottom-up tour of the brain via studies of brain-damaged patients. Rama’s now well-known classic studies are covered in some detail - phantom limbs, synesthesia, Capgras delusion (impostors), mirror neurons (e.g. hijacking evolution via culture). Plenty of other less familiar (at least to me) studies are also covered – vision experiments (multiple pathways, hallucinations, ‘filling in’ strategies), left-right brain studies (e.g. ‘paradigm-shift’ vs ‘conservatism’ modalities), plus so ...more
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Completely in awe of this scientist and his exciting work. I'd be interested to know how Ramachandran's work is viewed by other neurologists in the field (and philosophers too - he ventures daringly into their sovereign terrain a few times) since he adds a coda onto certain chapters explaining many of his own as of yet untested hypotheses and the experiments he still dreams of doing. He often tacitly invites the reader to play detective in-step alongside him and walks the reader through the info ...more
Aug 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
A solid set of neurology case-studies, in the tradition of Oliver Sacks. Ramachandran seems to have made his name explaining how different kinds of phantom limb syndromes function, and he's at his best when he's explaining the weird and miraculous ways the brain copes with the sudden loss of a part of the body. Also very good is the middle portion of the book, when he expands his survey to related neurological problems, including temporal lobe epilepsy (which seems to put some patients into dire ...more
Donnie Edgemon
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
I found this book interesting, but not fascinating. Ramachandran wrote the book for laymen. It was probably not easy for him to keep the content digestible for non-scientists, but he did a nice job of presenting complex concepts simply. The book is an overview of neurology, and Ramachandran demonstrated the functioning of the brain as it relates to human behavior through interesting studies of curious conditions such as phantom limbs, illusions of perception, and personality change. If you are a ...more
Rahul Vaidya
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is the most amazing book which I have read in a long time. Written in clear crisp language, this book provides a great insight into human brain derived from experiments. It is the experiments which makes the book interesting.

This book also provides some insights into long standing questions which great minds have been pondering about:
- What is consciousness?
- Why Religion/God?

I think brain is one of the fields which will see a huge development in coming years and reading this book prov
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
Why hadn't I read this before?!! ...more
Bhavesh Mehta
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Book on Neuroscience and that too for a layman? Without overtly pretentious? Interesting and also hilarious at times? Yes! Yes! This is the book for you if you are looking to dive into the abyss of scientific works on Brain and Neurology.

Reading this book enlightened me about the complexity with which different processes required for our existence are carried out by our Brain without our conscious knowledge. And it also made me recognize the outcome of years and years of evolution on the code o
Fathy Sroor
Arthur Schopenhauer's has tilted his most famous book”The world as a will and representation”.. I think if he was to live in our time he would have removed the word”will” from it.

The key idea is that although we take sight, hearing and all other sensations for granted as simple smooth processes, they are a way more complex than we can imagine.Neither Seeing is like videotaping nor hearing resembles recording.You(ironically by the final chapter you will understand that such propositions like “yo
Joshua Stein
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Dr. Ramachandran is a brilliant mind and easy to follow. His ability to walk through case studies and apply them to the theories of medical science in the field makes him incredibly easy to follow and to see the connections between the symptoms and the best theories about the underlying condition.

It's tough for me to read something outside my field because I always wonder what will happen if the author is misrepresenting areas of his field, creating strawmen or simply failing to point out that t
Sarah Faltesek
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
Did Not Finish.
I was excited for this book, having read a few of his articles during college. However, I had to stop reading due to the problematic manner in which he made some of his scientific claims. There were several fascinating bits of information, but so many of them were presented without going on to provide specific research to support them. It felt very anecdotal, as though we were just supposed to take his word that everything he related was true.
The final straw was in the 4th chapte
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm only two chapters in but I already know this book is a badass motherfucker. For one, it was almost called "The man who mistook his foot for a penis." For secondary, this neurologist / sleuth discovered how to cure people of phantom limb pain and in the process made an amazing discovery about the mind.

from p. 7: " is a physician's duty always to ask himself, 'What does it feel like to be in the patient's shoes?'"

For tertiary, this man is the first doctor to, as he puts it, amputate a ph
Troy Blackford
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a modern classic in the field, and one can easily see why. Dr. Ramachandran recounts--with great vigor and personality--his many interesting sojourns into the link between brain and experience. His experiments with patients reveal so many intriguing examples of the way brain influences mind and the perceived world and self, and this is an excellent showcase of those truths.
Son Tung
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book again shows how much we still do not know about human brain from a perspective of real world phenomenon: phantom limbs, phantom pain, faulty perception... The author's hilarious and philosophical tone makes it very entertaining at times.

Oliver Sack's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was mentioned in a few occasions, maybe i will read it this summer.
Dillon Petrillo
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
this book blew my mind. neuroscience for the layman? yes please. without patronization? thanks! interesting AND funny? well V.S. Ramachandran, I think you might just be a super hero.
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I have read about neuroscience and it was a breeze. Ramachandran knows how to catch and hold the attention of his reader. Of course, neuroscience is interesting enough by itself to most people, but to explain it to an average reader from a non-scientific background like me is no mean task.

One thing I noticed early on was how well structured the book is. Each chapter talks about a specific disorder which it introduces with a story about a patient, followed by the author’s t
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The Study of the ...: November 2012 BotM: Phantoms in the Brain 3 96 Jan 23, 2013 09:17AM  

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Vilayanur S. "Rama" Ramachandran is a neurologist best known for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and psychophysics. He is currently the Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, Professor in the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Ramachandran i

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