Title: Phantoms in the Brain
Writers : V S Ramachandran
My Rating: 4 on 5
This books attempts to explain how the human brain works. I say attempt because the author himself admits we do not yet completely know how the brain functions. This book covers topics like pseudo-pregnancy, phantom limbs, hemi-neglect and so on.
Pseudo-pregnancy is a state where a woman believes she is pregnant and shows all physical signs including a protruding belly, but who is not really pregnant. The woman even gives birth and loses her fat belly, but there is no baby. The author tries to explain why the body and brain fail to see the truth about the baby’s absence. And how the belly grows fat even though there is no baby.
When a patient loses a limb to amputation, he might continue to feel its existence and might even feel pain in the absent limb. The author refers to this as the phantom limb and tries to cure such patients with innovative methods. He even performs amputation over a phantom limb, which he himself finds amusing.
There are many such scenarios/conditions listed in the book and each one of them is as interesting and thought provoking. Through these “stories” and the author’s explanation, we get a glimpse of how our brain might be functioning. One bitter truth that is revealed to us is that we hardly know how it functions!
Dr. Ramachandran keeps his language simple and layman-friendly. There are medical jargons, but he gives enough explanation for us non-medical readers to understand and appreciate. I wish I had paid more attention in my biology classes. Some chapters are hard to understand and you need to read this in chunks.
This is not your typical bedtime reading. It is heavy reading and requires your brain to be functional when you read. A must read for those who find the medical world and human brain even slightly intriguing.