The Man Who Wasn't There

The Man Who Wasn't There

Investigations Into the Strange New Science of the Self

Book - 2015
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"In the tradition of Oliver Sacks, a tour of the latest neuroscience of schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's disease, ecstatic epilepsy, Cotard's syndrome, out-of-body experiences, and other disorders--revealing the awesome power of the human sense of self from a master of science journalism Anil Ananthaswamy's extensive in-depth interviews venture into the lives of individuals who offer perspectives that will change how you think about who you are. These individuals all lost some part of what we think of as our self, but they then offer remarkable, sometimes heart-wrenching insights into what remains. One man cut off his own leg. Another became one with the universe. We are learning about the self at a level of detail that Descartes ("I think therefore I am") could never have imagined. Recent research into Alzheimer's illuminates how memory creates your narrative self by using the same part of your brain for your past as for your future. But wait, those afflicted with Cotard's syndrome think they are already dead; in a way, they believe that "I think therefore I am not." Who--or what--can say that? Neuroscience has identified specific regions of the brain that, when they misfire, can cause the self to move back and forth between the body and a doppelganger, or to leave the body entirely. So where in the brain, or mind, or body, is the self actually located? As Ananthaswamy elegantly reports, neuroscientists themselves now see that the elusive sense of self is both everywhere and nowhere in the human brain"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, New York : Dutton, 2015
ISBN: 9780525954194
Branch Call Number: 616.8 An
Description: viii, 305 pages ; 24 cm


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Feb 27, 2017

I noticed his misuse of prone and supine as well--that kind of thing can drive an anatomy teacher crazy! But overall I really liked this book and find it fascinating that these conditions can be somehow connected to specific areas in the brain. I used some of the examples in this book in my physiology class.

Sep 01, 2016

The Man Who Wasn’t There explores neuroscience of the most fascinating and mind-bending sort. Ananthaswamy does begin with the most dramatic of the conditions he is exploring, Cotard’s syndrome, in which the patient believes herself to be dead. But in general this is a very sober and analytic investigation. Ananthaswamy is delving deep, and his explanations are detailed; he is willing to dig into nuance rather than oversimplifying matters. He has a tendency to interleave explanations and examples, which can make for some circular reading, since the science is often best understood once the example is in hand. Full review:

Jul 04, 2016

The cases and the experiments are interesting. But all the discussions about "self" get to be tiresome after a while. Oliver Sacks he is not.

Given the author's credentials, it's surprising that he confuses consistently the meanings of "prone" and "supine".

PimaLib_JB Dec 03, 2015

Fascinating book that fans of Oliver Sacks and science writing will love, about the intersection of case studies in neurology and philosophy's concept of the self.


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Sep 01, 2016

What is the self? This is an old and difficult question at the intersection of religion, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. By investigating Alzheimer’s disease, autism, body integrity identity disorder, Cotard’s syndrome, and schizophrenia in turn, Anil Ananthaswamy is able to show how the disruptions these conditions cause can illuminate the illusive concept of self, which can be so difficult to examine when it is functioning seamlessly. Through interviews with patients as well as their caregivers, Ananthaswamy offers insight into the phenomenology of these conditions, interspersed with lucid explanations of the most current scientific thinking.


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Sep 01, 2016

“But in the devastation are clues to what makes us who we are. These maladies are to the study of the self what brain lesions are to the study of the brain: They are cracks in the façade of the self that let us examine an otherwise almost impenetrable, ongoing, unceasing neural process.”


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