Neuroscience

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science

Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head.  Phineas, a railroad construction foreman, was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain.  Miraculously, he survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in brain science.  

What an amazing story!  The pictures and illustrations add to the narrative, and the cover photograph of his skull is very thought-provoking.  Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story, by John Fleischman, approaches Phineas’s life after the accident from a scientific and psychological viewpoint. Fleischman includes interviews with people who knew Gage before his accident as well as after and observed the changes in his behavior.  The author also presents notes from the doctors who treated him over the eleven years following his accident. It is an amazing story of survival and the resilience of the human brain. Who would have thought that anyone could have survived even a little while--let alone talk, walk and function after such an event? 

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

By Oliver Sacks

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"Oliver Sacks’s compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people—from a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly inspired to become a pianist at the age of forty-two, to an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; from people with “amusia,” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds—for everything but music.

"Our exquisite sensitivity to music can sometimes go wrong: Sacks explores how catchy tunes can subject us to hours of mental replay, and how a surprising number of people acquire nonstop musical hallucinations that assault them night and day. Yet far more frequently, music goes right: Sacks describes how music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who cannot otherwise move, give words to stroke patients who cannot otherwise speak, and calm and organize people whose memories are ravaged by Alzheimer’s or amnesia.

"Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and in Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks tells us why."

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

By Oliver Sacks

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"In his most extraordinary book, Oliver Sacks recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks's splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine's ultimate responsibility: 'the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.'"

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Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind and the Past

By Daniel L. Schacter

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"Over the past two decades scientists have made remarkable breakthroughs in understanding how memories are stored and retrieved, and with this knowledge they are beginning to understand the mysteries of the human mind. How can we perform tasks such as playing the piano or typing in such a way that we do not need to consciously direct each movement every step of the way? Why can we forget where we put our keys and yet remember events that happened long ago? Why is memory imperfect, and sometimes dead wrong? Daniel Schacter has been at the forefront of the research, and Searching for Memory is his firsthand account of what we now know and what it means.

"With references to art and autobiography and fascinating case studies, a la Oliver Sacks, he explains how one's past experiences influence the formation of new memories, how and why memory changes as people age, and much more. The book also sheds light on such hot topics as false memory syndrome, recovered memory, Alzheimer's disease and brain-damaged patients."

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In the Palaces of Memory: How We Build the Worlds inside Our Heads

By George Johnson

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Even as you read these words, a tiny portion of your brain is physically changing. New connections are being sprouted -- a circuit that will create a stab of recognition if you encounter the words again. That is one of the theories of memory presented in this intriguing and splendidly readable book, which distills three researchers' inquiries into the processes that enable us to recognize a face that has aged ten years or remember a melody for decades. Ranging from experiments performed on the "wetware" of the brain to attempts to re-create human cognition in computers, In the Palaces of Memory is science writing at its most exciting.

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Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain

By Antonio R. Damasio

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In this wondrously lucid and engaging book, renowned neurologist Antonio Damasio demonstrates what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking. Descartes' Error takes the reader on an enthralling journey of scientific discovery, starting with the case of Phineas Gage--a construction foreman who in 1848 survived a freak accident in which a 3 1/2 foot iron rod passed through his head--and continuing on to Damasio's experiences with modern-day neurological patients affected by brain damage. Far from interfering with rationality, his research shows us, the absence of emotion and feeling can break down rationality and make wise decision-making almost impossible.

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Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brain

By David Bainbridge

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The human brain has been described as the "three-pound universe." David Bainbridge says the structure of the brain is still the best way to understand it. This book is a fascinating explanation of our most complex organ.
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