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

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind - V.S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee, Oliver Sacks Fascinating stuff. Ramachandran explores the relatively new field of neuroscience, through speculation, hypothesises and some fairly low-tech experimentation – conjuring an image of a brain that perceives reality through complex pathways which can warp reality in strange ways when damaged, revealing to the neuroscientist how these pathways interconnect, how the mind works. Throughout the book examples of patients that have suffered damage to their brains are used to illustrate the function versus non-functional pathways operate and what this reveals about the self. Much of the latter chapters are highly speculative, however there are suggestions for ways to test the theories. There are, towards the end of the book, many pages of additional notes in supplement and these are equally interesting adjuncts to the main text.

The overall feeling the book is that we are at the beginnings of understanding the way human consciousness (and unconsciousness!) works, but there is much more to be done. That said, the hardest part, the conceptual understanding of what ‘we’ are is mostly there, so that it is just a matter of time before the brain and its contents reveal themselves, as DNA and Darwinism have done previously.