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Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains

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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,712 ratings  ·  242 reviews
Our brains are far stranger than we think. We take for granted that we can remember, feel emotion, navigate, empathize, and understand the world around us, but how would our lives change if these abilities were dramatically enhanced--or disappeared overnight?

Helen Thomson has spent years traveling the world, tracking down incredibly rare brain disorders. In Unthinkable she
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Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by Ecco
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Nazrul Buang I assume you meant "what is the message of the book".

The message is that the brain is not the same as the mind, and despite centuries of trying to…more
I assume you meant "what is the message of the book".

The message is that the brain is not the same as the mind, and despite centuries of trying to understand both, there are still a lot we don't understand. We understand and acknowledge the significance of the brain as a functional organ, but we often forget to appreciate how it defines what we are as human beings.

By observing the strangest minds she can find, author Helen Thomson learns how fascinating our brains work tirelessly to make sense of our realities, from empathy to illusions. I think it's an intriguing read, especially one that focuses on the livelihood of the people with the strangest minds, not the minds themselves.(less)
Beverly Hollandbeck Oh, yes. Then read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. That should get you hooked on Oliver Sacks. Better get started. There's so much to learn.…moreOh, yes. Then read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. That should get you hooked on Oliver Sacks. Better get started. There's so much to learn. (less)
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Petra-X
This is the sort of book I like. Neurology, problems of the brain told through the stories of people who suffer from them. In the hands of a brilliant writer, like Oliver Sacks, both the person and their issues come to life and we see the author too.

In this book there are nine problems, all neurological except one, told through the stories of nine people (including HM, does everyone have to include him? (The definitive book for me was Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the
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Jenna
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mental Health, Mental, Health, Head, Depression

Reading this book, I was reminded of how awesome the brain is, and how lucky I am that mine (mostly!) works like it's supposed to. Helen Thomson investigates nine unique brain conditions by interviewing people who have, and neurologists who have studied, these conditions. Included are:

•A woman whose brain causes her to hallucinate and "hear" continuous music

•A man who sometimes feels like he's turning into a tiger (the condition which possibly gave us the myth of werewolves)

•A woman whose brain
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Diane S ☔
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Our brains are capable of so many things, such a complex organ, and the least understood. This book highlights the many ways a glitch in the circuitry of the brain can cause some unique, and at times harrowing conditions. I was drawn to this book because of a show on TV I saw a while back. It featured some people who can remember in detail every day of their lives. I have a pretty good memory, but nothing close to that, but I was curious about how that type of memory came to be, what were ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Q:
‘I could see the beauty in everything. I had all these thoughts in my head that I’d never had before. I suddenly had these emotions and cares and worries. I could taste the femininity inside of me.’ (c)
Q:
Tommy described his brain as having gone into overdrive. ‘If I go for a walk inside my brain, I see all this information,’ he said. ‘Angles, languages, structures, mathematics, wild colourful pictures. Everything I look at sparks six memories or emotions or smells, they’re each spinning in my
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Jill Hutchinson
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine, non-fiction
How would you deal with hearing music that is not there 24 hours a day, every day; or thinking that you turn into a tiger periodically; or having every memory of your life at your fingertips? These are just some of the neurological issues addressed in nine cases covered in this interesting book about rare brain disorders, why they happen, and how the affected person lives with it.

The author, a neuroscientist, writer and consultant, was fascinated with the mysteries of the brain and how it "talks
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Liza Fireman
I really liked that one. Brains are so intriguing, so interesting, so important. The stories that were mentioned in this book are outstanding one by one, and I enjoyed and was interested throughout the whole book.

The first part is talking about people with exceptional memory. And maybe that was the best start for me as a person that has a really great memory as well. Later, the reader is introduced to a vast amount of syndromes such as people that cannot navigate and are consonantly lost, or
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Jeanette
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I truly don't know what I expected with this book. But it sure was some content with a more scientific and specific study core. I might have given it a 3 star if the tone had not been as "off" as I felt it to be.

She's Miss Friendly "fellow well met" kind of writer who lets you know every nuance or conversational tidbit during the exchanges with some of these witnesses, or people who have studied or been medical personnel to the witnesses or cases cited.

It's me and not the book. But even so,
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Jo
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomson travels the world meeting various people with 'strange' brains. She meets a man who thought he was dead, a woman who can get lost in her own house and a man who believes he turns into a tiger. For anybody interested in the workings of the brain, especially when it goes awry, this is a must-read. I found it absolutely fascinating.
Holly
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2018-reads
Up until the final chapter this trodded familiar territory, and what made it valuable wasn't the originality but the author's earnest curiosity and her meetings and interviews with people suffering from the neurological problems she discusses (e.g. lycanthropy). But the final chapter on mirror-touch synaesthesia was fascinating and completely new to me. Joel Salinas, the doctor who can literally feel his patients' pain, also has a book (called Mirror Touch), which I just ordered.
Essam Munir
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some want to read it expecting one of Oliver Sacks books, but this is not Sacks! The stories were good and for those who haven't read so much neurological stories, then they will find it quite interesting.
Her narrative was good and engaging and she presented some of the "routinely- mentioned" cases in a novel way.
Good, smooth book.
Ann-Marie
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you are fascinated by our interesting brains, if you have wondered as I did when I was a child whether we see colors differently, what it is like to be aware of our existence, if others observed the world the same way you do (they don't), you will enjoy reading this book.
I learned so much about people who experience the world in ways many of us cannot imagine.
I even discovered some wonderful things about myself. I am not over imaginative, or a daydream for thinking numbers have colors and
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Nancy Mills
Very interesting and easy to read. Kind of Oliver Sacks Lite. The author tells the personal stories of people with very weird brain impairments or idiosychronies. I'm impressed with the grace and sense of humor many of these people exhibit, in the face of sometimes debilitating problems. The author seems to be very sympathetic and gracious. I'd say 3 1/2 stars, and probably would have rated it higher had it been a little meatier. I read a lotta LOTTA science and this one was very easy to read, ...more
Ginny
"If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't."

Our brains are fascinating. In 'Unthinkable' Helen Thomson travels the world tracking down people with incredibly rare brain disorders - from the man who thinks he's a tiger, to the doctor who can physically feel the pain of his patients. From these extraordinary cases, Thomson aims to teach us more about our own brains and the mechanisms that control our personality, emotions, creativity and
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Jennopenny
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love neuroscience and found this book to be so interesting. Reading about people with strange or extraordinary brains is great.
I would really recommend it if you want to read about people who turns into a tigers, about being constantly lost and feeling other peoples emotions and much more. Sometimes it hurt my brain because I'm not very sciencey but really good.

If you know good neuroscience books, that aren't too sciencey, please recommend them to me. (I have read and will read more by Oliver
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Marie
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant
Mary
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As promised on the cover, this book takes a look at 9 different types of unusual conditions that can be present in our brain. These are not scientific accounts but more interviews with the individuals who display these conditions and the effect the conditions have on their lives.

Readers will be introduced to a man who believes that he is dead, a woman who is unable to recognize locations very familiar to her like her home or street, and a man who has an extreme form of synesthesia.

Interesting
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Sophie Dickins
A fascinating and well-written book on the many ways our brains can differ and, in some cases, be led astray. A quick read despite the fact that it is full of scientific explanation. My favourite chapter was the last one, about mirror-touch synaesthesia.
Jubin Kuriakose
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an eye opener to the notion of ones own mind / brain. I especially enjoyed the part where author explains how the brain makes prediction and weighs them against the external inputs from the sensory organs and how mental illness is mostly about our brain trying to cope with defects of nerves and organs in the body.
Definitely humbling to know that we are just a nerve away from being completely irrational to others. You will definitely take more care of your brain after reading this!
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Renita D'Silva
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Intriguing. Just wonderful!
Renita D'Silva
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Intriguing. Just wonderful!
Saarah Niña
The brain is a magnificent organ (huge understatement!)

We've all marvelled at the human brain, at one time or another, even when it has us do something insanely ridiculous. I'm reminded of the time I forgot that we had a new family car, and spent ten or so minutes looking for the one we had sold the month before. So distracted I had been in getting out of the rain, that the new car had slipped my mind completely. That, and I was drenched. Oh, how the mind works!

Lucky for us, Helen Thomson brings
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K. Lincoln
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomson has an engaging way of presenting kind of narrative summaries of neurological research framed by her travels to meet different people whose brains are wired in non-mainstream ways. Her research really focuses on sense of self: people who are synthesthetes, people with very active mirror-nuerons, people who turn into tigers, and people who are lost within their own houses.

The science in presented in easy-to-read chunks and never delved beyond surface level explanations of the research. I
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David Ward
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains by Helen Thomson (Harper Collins 2018) (612.82). This is one truly fascinating book about the brain that delivers the goods as promised. This volume by Helen Thomson is a survey of the brains of the true outliers among our fellow human beings. In the context of this book, the term “outliers” doesn't refer to a group of individuals who can remember better or imagine better than the majority of the populace. Rather, Helen ...more
Paul
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a diverting and at times humorous book in the nature of Oliver Sacks's books ("The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," et al.) It's a case-by-case investigation of people whose brains have unusual characteristics. The most interesting parts, to me, were some of the more bizarre disorders, such as Cotard's Disease, victims of which think they have already died. One such person would turn up missing at his home, and after his family hunted him down, he would be quietly sitting in a ...more
Matthew Peck
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the tradition of Alexander Luria and Oliver Sacks, "Unthinkable" delves into our current understanding of the human brain via compassionate profiles of neurodivergent human beings. Helen Thomson's writing is not exactly colorful or distinctive, but it covers a lot of scientific ground with impressively succint explanations. In fact, this is probably one of the most easily consumable books that you'll ever find on this subject.

Each chapter is equally interesting, but I thought the essays about
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Nina
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Totally fascinating. Reminded me of Oliver Sacks' writing style ( he was one of her inspirations). The science is interwoven with personal stories about people with strange brains. She says, "I started my journey in America, where I met a TV producer who never forgets a day of his life, and a woman who is permanently lost—even in her own home. In the UK, I spent time with a teacher whose memories don’t feel like her own, and the family of an ex-con whose personality changed overnight. I flew ...more
Yumiko Hansen
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Our brain is a mystery that has not yet revealed the extent of the unimaginable lands it is capable producing. And when it does, it will be the most romantic story of all.”

The people who future in this book are extraordinary.
Award-winning science writer Helen Thomson unlocks the biggest mysteries of the human brain by examining nine extraordinary cases. She has spent years travelling the world, tracking down incredibly rare brain disorders.

Each story was so fascinating that I had a hard time
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Bethany
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy
3.5 stars. I love the topic- brief intro to some of the most special brains studied by science in an attempt to discover what the organ can do. The execution was a little off. Helen has author Tourette’s, every few paragraphs jumping topics. And I hate the existential, this is my experience writing the book... bleh. But the people she interviewed were something special for sure!
Robin
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A glimpse to the extremes our brains are capable of

A wonderfully written book, opening up the complexity of our brains through extreme mal-or over functioning cases. Makes you appreciate who you are and be more open to the uniqueness of the minds around us.
Meg Marie
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super fascinating about unique mental abilities/cases. The brain is a marvelous thing!
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Helen Thomson is a writer and consultant with New Scientist. She has also written for the Guardian, Daily Mail, BBC Future and Psychologies and has won various awards for her journalism.

Her research has taken her from coffee with five psychopathic mass murderers in Broadmoor to poking around in the Large Hadron Collider.

She has exclusively revealed plans for the world's first head transplant,
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“Our inability to understand our own minds is the price we pay for the ability to question it in the first place.” 4 likes
“Back in that first lesson with Clive, I was told by my professor that 'If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't.” 3 likes
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