Phantoms in the Brain
- By: Sally-Ann S Price
Professor Ramachandran is billed as one of the world's leading neuroscientists. His book is intended to be accessible to a lay audience, and cases from it have recently been seen in a television series. His subject is clearly of interest to medical students. Ramachandran presents bizarre cases of neurological problems where brain dysfunction has resulted in strange symptoms.
Examples include the impressively titled somatoparaphrenia, a syndrome where the patients deny that part of their body belongs to them. Asked, “Whose is that arm?” they reply, “It's my brother's.” The Kluver-Bucy syndrome, resulting from temporal lobe damage, produces a lack of discrimination over what is eaten and what is approached sexually.
Ramachandran contrasts with Oliver Sacks. Where Sacks describes his patients' symptoms sympathetically, Ramachandran presents his with all the flair of a circus ringmaster. He then details ingenious and sometimes apparently cruel experiments with these patients to determine “what precisely is