Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Not Back Yet...

...but in the meantime, here's something to read.

"Phantoms in the Brain" by V.S. Ramachandran, M.D., PH.D.

I picked this book up at the bookstore, read the back and knew I had to have it. It's hard to explain exactly what it's about, but I'll try.

I thought we (meaning science, society, etc.) knew quite a bit about the human brain and how it works. Turns out, we know pretty much nothing. Back in 1998, when I had my very first panic attack - and doctors told me they couldn't tell me why - I just figured I was insane. In 1995, I was finally put on a series of pills, because "there's no test for what you have, we just have to experiment." I was lucky. My experiments led to a solution. Even through all of that, I still thought we pretty much knew what we could about the human brain.


This book discusses neuroscience in a way that I can TOTALLY understand. It's dumbed down to the masses, rather than being taylored to the doctors and superbright people in this world. Poor Mr. Zoom has to endure my excited re-cap of every chapter.

The best part is, the Dr. who wrote it has taken real life patients (names, small details changed to preserve privacy) and led the reader through the brain damage and the resulting strange behaviors. Then there are simple experiments that further demonstrate how our brains work.

The case histories you are presented with in the beginning feel like you are reading about someone who has "gone insane". Apparently, in medicine, the strange cases were/are mostly written off as either insane or not worth the time to explore.

But that's just it, they aren't crazy. They are perfectly sane, intelligent people who have suffered a kind of brain injury that causes these things or actions. There's a quote in the book from Sherlock Holmes "I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routines of everyday life." Stuff like that is as good as chocolate to me.

There is a down side to reading this book, however. There are times when I've come to realize that our brain is almost another "being" in our heads. It literally has a "mind" of it's own, and can make one do, say or see things that we KNOW are incorrect. And with most of these case studies, that's exactly the frustrating part for the patient and the doctor alike. They KNOW it's not right, but something is happening. And through these demonstrations, you come to see exactly how it can and does happen. It's very unsettling, at least to me, if I think about it too hard. And right about now you are probably thinking I've been doing more than chores with my time lately.

The other downside, if I can call it that, is a loss of the feeling of mysticism in the world. I'm not sure if mysticism is the word I'm looking for.... After reading this book (I'm almost done with it), there's sortof a scientific "explanation" as to why... say ... someone might have a religious experience, or someone migh have a "premonition". I don't get on the ghost/esp/mystic band wagon all too eagerly, but it was kindof nice to sometimes think that things like that beyond our explanation were out there.

That probably sounds as retarded as I think it does.

Now, the author comes right out and tells you that these ideas of his are pure theory. Nothing can be proven as fact. However, his examples are so compelling, I defy any of you with the huge knowledge out there to point out the reasons why it can't be true (other than those the author already acknowledges.)

Anyway, that's my book recommendation.

I won't be able to resume my usual stories of coffee spillage and Mr. Zoom smart alecness until at least Monday. Stay safe, everyone!


Al said...

Some people see the future, some people talk to dead people, I just have a preminition that every year the Cleveland Indians are going pump up my dreams of a World Series Penant only to see them go up in flames like the Cuyahoga on a warm summer's eve.

AndyT13 said...

Phew! Thanks for the book recommendation and the interim post. I was really hating the no-coffee-spillage and Mr. Zoom stories. All my favorite bloggers are on vacation or something dammit. BTW thanks for coming by and making with the encouragement. It's really not as bad as all that. I'm just melodramatic.
Love ya!

AndyT13 said...

BTW I don't really exist. I'm just a side effect of your medication.

theresa said...

Sounds like a great read. I've always been in awe of how adaptable our brains are; how much they allow us to survive. They'll make nonsense seem logical for us, just so we don't go crazy ... like every day when I go to work ... okay, not EVERY DAY, but most days.

The Management said...

Brains, who needs em? I'm more of a moth. Just responding to stimuli.

Otter (Moth)

Aisha T. said...

Hmm...gotta check into this. Especially if it's got the Zoom Gold Star Approval!