Francis Crick the Crick half of the famous Watson and Crick duo that discovered the structure of DNA coined a term and used it as the title for his book on the subject called The Astonishing Hypothesis, which represents the idea that all human cognition and perception every emotion, belief, existential crisis, perceived sight, sound, smell, etc is essentially the product of or equivalent to complex clusters and pathways of neurons and the synaptic connections of neurotransmitters that bind them, encased in bone, and in flux like most things And as Crick once saidThere is no scientific study vital to man than the study of his own brain Our entire view of the universe depends on itAnd just as matter of historical perspective and novelty Lucretius, a brilliant Roman poet and Epicurian philosopher circa 99 BC proposed the same basic idea that lies at the heart of The Astonishing HypothesisAt this stage you must admit that whatever is seen to be sentient is nevertheless composed of atoms that are insentient The phenomena open to our observation do not contradict this conclusion or conflict with it Rather they lead us by the hand and compel us to believe that the animate is born, as I maintain, of the insentientV.S Ramachandran has run with The Astonishing Hypothesis in ways like no other pop science writer has with the possible exception of Oliver Sacks who writes a wonderful intro to this book, by the way.Let s start with a quote from Rama as I ll lovingly call him for the rest of the review that isn t from this book but gives some sense of scale and scope to what we re dealing with here when we pursue the implications of The Astonishing HypothesisThe human brain, it has been said, is the most complexly organised structure in the universe and to appreciate this you just have to look at some numbers The brain is made up of one hundred billion nerve cells or neurons which is the basic structural and functional units of the nervous system Each neuron makes something like a thousand to ten thousand contacts with other neurons and these points of contact are called synapses where exchange of information occurs And based on this information, someone has calculated that the number of possible permutations and combinations of brain activity, in other words the numbers of brain states, exceeds the number of elementary particles in the known universeA quick word on Rama s overall style He prides himself like any good pop science writer on being able to make technical, complex topics comprehensible to the layperson He accomplishes this in spades He doesn t condescend and he doesn t dumb anything down, rather he s just charismatic you should see him speak in person , well educated in fields than merely his specialty he ll drop Shakespeare quotations, references to pop culture, sociology, history and cutting edge philosophy all in the same page , and just knows how to turn a pleasing phrase rich metaphors and lucid prose abound He really captures the childlike wonder and openness to evidentiary trajectories and discovery that is an ideal in science He often compares his work to that of his boyhood hero Sherlock Holmes He s a brain detective tracking down the roots of these various strangest of strange phantoms found lurking round the human brain Basically, this is the purest antidote to dry, technical writing, and it seems to sacrifice none of the scientific rigor in the process A truly stunning feat that I ve only seen a few other authors pull off as well Steven Pinker and Oliver Sacks both come to mind This particular work of Rama s focuses on some of the strangest, most fascinating, and philosophically rich territory that s been eked out in the relatively young but incredibly productive and conceptually expansive history of cognitive neuroscience At many points I found my jaw dropping further than I thought possible as each page went by He covers SO MANY interesting neuro psychological behavioral phenomena that it s difficult to know what to highlight and what to gloss over there s just too much for a GoodReads review Plus, some should be left for you potential readers to happily find on your own and what I summarize is extremely brief and surface level anyway Phantom Limbs One of the areas Rama is most well known for is the revolutionary work he s done with understanding and curing phantom limb pain Most people know what this phenomenon consists of a person loses a body part, most often some section of their arm or leg or the whole thing though he also mentions rarer instances of phantom penises and phantom breasts and they begin to have very, very vivid sensations that the limb is still there The problem often times is that they can t control what this phantom limb does or how it feels Commonly, people have the painful sensation that their phantom hand is clenched as tight as can be, to cite one of many examples Rama discovered a simple and ingenious way to sooth and eventually eliminate these pains He set up a box with a mirror in it that looks like this When he first tried this out on a person who was in agonizing pain they immediately felt a torrent of relief the phantom limb sufferer described it as an instantaneous and entirely vivid sensation of being able to finally unclench his excrusiatingly painful clenched phantom fist, immediately The basic idea is that the brain is tricked into believing that that missing limb is present and when the actual remaining limb moves it gives the equally vivid sensation that the phantom limb is moving in that same willful way This exercise is done and as time goes on it becomes less and less necessary as the phantom pains become less and less frequent He cracks a great joke about being the first person to ever amputate a phantom limb It s utterly brilliant and a fine humanitarian service that he s brought to many, many people suffering from what was until his fairly recent discovery such a baffling phenomenon Capgras Syndrome This one s really interesting and rife with all kinds of psychological and philosophical implications Capgras syndrome is when a person begins to think that people they know and recognize perfectly well are imposters One main example in the chapter The Unbearable Likeness of Being is a young man who had a near fatal car accident which put him into a coma for three weeks All of his normal functions like talking and walking were restored through physical therapy, but one very peculiar feature remained he insists that his parents are not his parents Though he acknowledges the perfect physical similarity and is otherwise perfectly rational he simply cannot be convinced that these kindly older people taking care of him are anything but doppelgangers Fucking weird, right Well, there are many cases of this syndrome than this, so it s not even quite as rare as one would first guess, and Rama gracefully travels through the cognitive neuroscientific netherworld that lies behind this phenomena with some amazing theories guiding him along the way and developing in his wake If for no other reason, read this book because of what you ll learn about Capgras syndrome and Cotard Syndrome In Synecdoche, New York, the most recent film by and directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, the central character s name is non coincidently Caden Cotard While he doesn t have the neurological syndrome he does spend large parts of the film fretting about death it s a wonderful film, don t let this description fool you Actual people with Cotard s syndrome are either completely convinced that they are already dead or are decaying They often swear that they can smell their own rotting flesh, etc Before we jump to the conclusion that these people are just wrist slitting goth kids prone to hyperbole or just crazy, we need to take the brain s eye view with Rama as our guide And a note about the just crazy remark I just made He stresses throughout this book that it is a profound mistake to send the patients he describes straight to the psychiatrist or the loony bin And he s always right to do this There is some time spent arguing against old paradigms of psychology and psychiatry and cultural theory and sociology even though he does give Freud credit where credit is due and shows us how Freud had seeds of wisdom, but that the seeds need to be fostered by all of the new knowledge and innovation and most importantly positive results brought about by the paradigm shift of cognitive neuroscience when it comes to treating people with these strangest of mental states and behaviors.Alright, there are so many other major points of interest I could go into but I m calling it quits for now A short list of other great topics Phantom pregnancies People literally laughing themselves to death The ins and outs of the placebo effect Mirror neurons and their relationship to empathy Blind sight an incredible phenomenon, look it up The pros and cons of evolutionary psychology People who completely neglect one entire side of their body and do not and cannot realize it The neurological underpinnings of religious revelations and ecstasies And One last word on Consciousness I tend to approach all of neuroscience with the eyes of a philosopher meaning, I don t really have an aptitude for the finer, technical details, and that there s basically a constant running commentary in the back of my mind at least when I approach the brain which is pondering the ever increasing philosophical discourse about the nature of consciousness itself This also easily lends itself to existential thoughts about the obvious which can be or less boiled down to this if a person s conscious experience is the brain or is a product of the brain the distinctions here will cause most of your eyes to glaze over, so I ll be be silent on that for now then its dissolution is our dissolution In other words, this kind of stuff practically urges a person to consider the inevitability of mortality to some degree or another While Rama bypasses all extended musings on the meaning of life and death, he does take a mighty swing at the philosophical debates about consciousness in the final chapter He s quite philosophically astute for a neuroscientist with no formal philosophical education He s also collaborated with fellow UC San Diego professor of philosophy Patricia Churchland which for fans of philosophy and science is basically a dream team Patricia and her husband Paul are basically the forebearers of a subfield of study called neurophilosophy, which I see as the wave of the future and one of the only hopes for academic philosophy to remain or become, depending on your station in life relevant and exciting, and also as a useful clarifying tool for cognitive neuroscience and perhaps science and all the other seriously probing disciplines generally.I ll continue to urge many people to read this book It s maximally eye opening, entertaining and thought provoking. Few years back I read Oliver SacksThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Talesand was amazed by the cases presented This book is even astounding human brain is such a mystery even today.I knew about amputees phantom limbs but not to this extent And these are not the only cases one woman did not recognize her arm, saying it s his brother s others completely lost perception of their left part of the body and surroundings Another, after a car accident, did not recognize his parents, saying they look alike but they are imposters and they are not the only ones All these strange behaviors because of minor or not so minor damage to the brain.There are also quite a few experiments done to understand how brain works and how it remaps the body, like this one which I saw some time ago fascinating and frightening in the same time human body is such a fragile organism You never know what may happen I think this was a good book to read after reading Susan Sontag While Sontag says that the we attribute a disease to our mind and to our attitudes the it betrays our ignorance, Ramachandran tries to answer questions like Can your mental attitude really help cure asthma and cancer For example, VSR is courageous enough to venture into esoteric areas such as mind body connection and divine visions and sound them out with the backing of science and a curious imagination.The Victorian attitude that VSR brings to these explorations make the book a pleasure to read and you too can play Sherlock with the neuroscientist as he goes about snooping in the recesses of the mind in each of the cases.The most basic questions about the human mind are still mysteries to us How do we recognize faces Why do we cry Why do we laugh Why do we dream Why do we enjoy music and art and the really big question What is consciousness And generally, how does the activity of tiny wisps of protoplasm in the brain lead to conscious experience These are the questions that VSR tries to address as he stitches together an elaborate network of clinical case studies into a coherent tapestry He does not claim to have all the answers but shows the daring to face up to these toughest of questions without the grabs of a philosopher or a mystic but with the probing flashlight of a scientist And that is why both his books are so captivating.He opens the book with an overview about how our brain works After a few pages of diagrams and explanations about those weird Latin names, he gets to one of the important points that he wants to address through all these wandering with patients and obscure questions Modularity Vs Holism What is the nature of our brain s workings Is it modular with separate areas for separate functions or is fundamentally holistic with all the functions arising from an intricate interaction of all regions Consider the following examples Many stroke victims are paralyzed on the right or left side of their bodies, depending on where the brain injury occurs Voluntary movements on the opposite side are permanently gone And yet when such a patient yawns, he stretches out both arms spontaneously Much to his amazement, his paralyzed arm suddenly springs to life It does so because a different brain pathway controls the arm movement during the yawn a pathway closely linked to the respiratory centers in the brain stem.Or consider the unfortunate story of a patient known as H.M., who might as well have risen straight out of Memento H.M suffered from a form of epilepsy and his doctors decided to remove his hippocampus , a structure that controls the laying down of new memories We only know this because after the surgery, H.M could no longer form new memories, yet he could recall everything that happened before the operation.After this lengthy introduction, the book finally takes us to the deep end the clinical cases and their implications The Phantom Limb To understand Ramachandran s approach to this strange malady, you have to get your mind around something called the Penfield homunculus A map of the entire body surface exists in the brain like a miniature body drawn on the brain surface Some parts like lips and hands are overrepresented and the locations of the different body parts is not as it is in actual anatomy Literally a miniature map of your body in your brain Perform a google search for.Ramachandran while experimenting on patients with phantom limbs soon found that the penfield map for their missing arm seems to be on their face now So now if he touches the patient s face, the patient feels the touch on his non existing arm Apparently, the part of the map corresponding to face in the brain is very close to the part corresponding to the arm and following the surgical removal, the face map neurons has invaded the part reserved for the arm and is now making the brain believe that sensations are coming from that arm when the face is touched Stimulated by all these spurious signals, Tom s brain literally hallucinates his arm.He gives a number of examples involving phantom feet and arms and breasts and even sexual organs.One patient, in his description, stood up, letting her stumps drop straight down on both sides But when I talk, she said, my phantoms gesticulate In fact, they re moving now as I speak This reminded me so powerfully of Munnabhai and his chemical lochas talking of Gandhi.One of the main problems with patients is paralyzed phantom limbs that are in weird positions that cause pain To address this, VSR postulates that the phantom limb experience might derive from this explanation Imagine that your brain area that gives motor commands do not know that the arm is no longer there So it sends a command, move Each time the motor command center sends signals to the missing arm, information about the commands is also sent to the parietal lobe which houses the penfield map containing our body image In the case of an actual arm there is another source of information the impulses from the joints, ligaments and muscle spindles of that arm These impulses let the brain know that it is actually moving The phantom arm of course lacks these tissues and their signalsNow imagine that the actual limb was paralyzed before amputation Every time the brain sends a signal to move, all the responses from the arm and the visual response gives feedback that nope, the arm is not moving This process repeats till, eventually the brain learns that the arm does not move and a kind of learned paralysis is stamped onto the brain s circuitry and when the arm is later amputated, the person is stuck with that revised body image a paralyzed phantom.So in a burst of intuitive insight or creative genius, VSR wonders if he can give feedback to the brain visually that the arm IS moving, then maybe it will unlearn this paralysis visual feedback telling him that his arm is moving again while his muscles are telling him the arm is not there The only way his beleaguered brain could deal with this bizarre sensory conflict was to say, To hell with it, there is no arm He does it with his famous mirror box contraption that does exactly that thus performing what he calls the first successful amputation of a phantom limb BlindSight VSR gives a few clinical examples of patients who are blind in all conventional sense but can still navigate rooms an around objects and can even put envelopes through slits even when they can t see the slits or its orientation to explain this strange almost extra sensory perception, we need to understand about how we see and how we process what we see What happens when you look at any object The light from the object reflects back to your eye, activating corresponding optic impulses in the receptors in your retina These impulses then travel through the optic nerve and then they take tow pathways one called old and a second, called new.The older pathway goes eventually to higher areas in your brain The newer pathway, on the other hand, travels from through a sort of relay station en route to the primary visual cortex From there, visual information is transmitted to the thirty or so other visual areas for further processing The new pathway after going to the visual cortex diverges again into two pathways a how pathway in the parietal lobes that is concerned with grasping, navigation and other spatial functions, and the second, what pathway in the temporal lobes concerned with recognizing objects.Why do we have an old pathway and a new pathway VSR postulates that maybe the older pathway has been preserved as a sort of early warning system or a quick response system When time is too short to not have the luxury of processing information etc, this pathway allows you to quickly get out of the way of anything that looks vaguely threatening hard coded threats and symbols etc For example, if a large looming object comes at me from the left, this older pathway tells me where the object is, enabling me to swivel my eyeballs and turn my head and body to look at it This pathway only gives you a sense that something is there.At this stage you have to deploy the newer system to determine what the object is, for only then can you decide how to respond to it Damage to this second pathway, particularly in the primary visual cortex, leads to blindness in the conventional sense.So, coming back to patients with BlindSight, the paradox is resolved when you consider the division of labor between the two visual pathways that we considered earlier In particular, even though these patient might have lost his primary visual cortex, rendering him blind, their primitive orienting pathway was sometimes still intact, mediating BlindSight, allowing them to react to objects that they cannot see and with no conscious acknowledgement that they are aware of these objects It becomes an unconscious reflex reaction for them.They have BlindSight and can see without seeing Imagination and Reality Ramachandran explores the difference between imagining an object and seeing one Are the same parts of your brain active when you imagine an object, say, a cat, as when you look at it actually sitting in front of you He first takes us through a variety of intriguing experiments that we can perform on ourselves to play with our visual blind spot I am reproducing one here but for off these fun games, go here image error HOLY CRAP.This is the best book about neuroscience and cog sci for a popular audience ever written by someone not named Oliver Sacks Ramachandran is, as one of the cover reviews says, profoundly sane, and has a real sense of what you can get from the scientific method and what you can t, and really understands the way questions that used to be philosophical are inching into the realm of the empirical.He also is sometimes hilarious, really up on the other great popular scientific thinkers out there right now, and has examples and experiments that will completely blow your mind, Man who mistook his wife for a hat style and THEN some Then, once it s blown, he will spend a great deal of time fitting it into the context of just what that means about our understanding of the large scale structure of the brain right now.SO EDUCATIONAL, SO FASCINATING, SO GOOD. This is a book about psychology, neuroscience, all the good stuff Ramachandran is delightfully witty and approaches the big and small questions of psychology and neuroscience with curiosity and equal doses of scepticism and speculation alike One of the truly good things about Phantoms in the Brain is that it is written with humility and humour Ramachandran manages to expound whilst being hilarious and without dumbing down , so to speak The book isn t an overtly serious nature thesis so it follows a rather non stuffy style, which is refreshing It mainly consists of anecdotes and cases culled from wide ranging medical literature, so it serves as a ground for inquiry into the nature, symptoms, effects and treatments of the various psychological anomalies The book doesn t shy away from supporting the cases with evidence and providing the necessary scientific context and explanation for the problems at hand I think that s the most crucial thing for any popular science book Science shouldn t be downplayed or given the back seat at the cost of making it easy A popular science book fails if it doesn t bring out the science bit in Because, you know, it popular science after all.What I also liked was that every chapter begins with quotes taken from sources as wide as the books of Sherlock Holmes, the Vedas and Shakespeare That adds a nice touch.But I think the most important thing I took away when I read this at 16 was the spirit of scientific enquiry and sense of wonder that this book carries with it At the heart of it, it s all about trying to understand Life, the Universe, and Everything And that sense of wonder that joy of scientific discovery is contagious I love science. This book is a direct flight into to the Limbo I begin to like Dr Ramachandran Such a remarkable, intelligent, and humble man, someone who would make a nice companion during long campfires The phantom limbs this book famously talks about is well known now But it talks about much than that The brain is after all a complex thing We hardly understand how it ticks and many things that pass on as bogus, like clairvoyance, are not completely unprovable given the limitations of brain study That Ramachandran is willing to stray into the tall claims made by mystics is a wonder and a joy because most of the self serious scientists don t like to get their hands dirty.The book informs us that phantom limbs occur because the brain s body image the mapping of each body part in the brain gets altered due to shock or some other reason This is a plausible theory Consider a man who has an amputated leg and whenever he reaches an orgasm he feels it in his phantom leg and not in the penis The reason is not, as Frued suggested years ago while explaining foot fetish, that the feet resemble the phallus But because the sensors for the leg and the penis are quite close in the body image This is interesting Consider also that in female brains the sensors for earlobe and nipples are quite close the rest is elementary But this body image may get altered, resulting in messed up, baffling signals, the kind patients with phantom limbs feel In fact, normal people can also feel something like it Take this experiment Ask two of your friends to join you Call them A and B Sit in a chair Ask A to sit in front of you in another chair Blindfold your eyes Now ask B to take your hand and periodically tickle A s nose and at the same time tickle your nose with another hand Simple But after some 30 to 40 seconds you will feel that A s nose is your nose, the one being tickled by your hand, and not the one on your body This nose outside my body experience happens because the body image gets slightly altered because of the experiment The fact of the matter is as Dr Ramachandran explains Your body image, despite all its appearance of durability is an entirely transitory internal construct that can be profoundly modified with a few simple tricks It is merely a shell you have temporarily created for successfully passing your genes to your offspring Along the way he sheds light on a new discovery about how we perceive the world A simple act of seeing is distributed among multiple visual areas and division of labor among the two the how and what pathways A small imbalance in these pathways can cause disastrous effects A real case study tells about a woman with such a deformity who could see perfectly well but could never sense motion This meant this she could never cross a road because she could not see continuous movement, only static snapshots A simple event of filling coffee was always troublesome because the snapshots won t tell her when her cup was about to spill It tells us that we don t understand vision completely.Dr Ramachandran writes If I toss a red ball at you, several far flung visual areas in your brains are activated simultaneously, but what you see is a single unified picture of the ball Does this unification come about because there is a later place in the brain where all this information is put together what the philosopher Dan Dennett calls a Cartesian Theater Or are there connections between these areas so that their simultaneous activation leads directly to a sort of synchronized firing pattern that in turn creates perpetual unity This question the so called binding problem, is one of the many unresolved riddles in neuroscience Stroke patients sometimes go into denial or repress the fact of the paralysis and although these baffling acts confuse doctors, some brave neurologists actually find parallels of these behavior with Freudian concepts like repression , denial , reaction formation and the like It is an opportunity for them to test Freud s theories because although we all display such behavior in our day to day life, in these unfortunate patients the intensity is tenfold, giving enough material to hold an experiment Even though Freud bashing is a popular intellectual pastime, Ramachandran believes that he had some valuable insights up his sleeve about our psychological defenses Many strange sightings of ghosts, angels, UFOs may be due to ocular pathology, a malfunction called Charles Bonnet syndrome The pleasure of this book arises from Dr Ramachandran s enthusiastic writing style, presenting one case study after another, giving us proper details that lead to the wow moment the discovery of something new about the brain, and along the way he makes us feel like Sherlock Holmes a figure that significantly inspired him to join medicine During the reading of the book I was mostly agile and curious to know what would come next Not many popular science books are like that Though some present excellent ideas, they hamper the reading experience by either being too verbose dull or too technical.We learn from this book that a lot of what we know about the curious sounding functions of the brain is by studying patients with deformities or malfunction, a method used by psychoanalysts in the past, but today s neurologists rely on sophisticated observations and not educated guesses What does all the case studies tell us That most of the brain processes run by comparisons and not by absolute values You never know what you may end up finding next I don t know about others, but I take comfort in that idea That this reality, my reality, the way I perceive it, the things that I understand, the things that I don t, everything has my brain at its center It makes me who I am I am not speaking as an Idealist, but a lot of what goes around in life is constantly scanned by my brain I cannot deny its influence The brain is powerful enough to generate a religious experience Even intense religious experiences are traced to the limbic system, but Dr Ramachandran is humble enough to state that the existence of God cannot be denied on empirical grounds In the later chapters he dwells on pseudocyesis a condition in which a woman experiences all the signs of pregnancy, swollen belly, lactating breasts and the like, but there is one thing missing the baby The fake pregnancy is the result of a delusion How f ed up is that Listen to this now a rare few men who show extreme sympathy towards their pregnant wives start showing signs of pregnancy They even start lactating People, lets all bow down to the power of the mind Reading this book, I have secretly started believing that if it can make such improbable things true, if only one could train it in the right direction and draw amazing fruits from it the way new age mystics claim all the time It helps me to know that something intriguing may happen tomorrow that today I find impossible It would not be a miracle It would just be a new thing I would learn about myself, about my mental abilities We may not end up knowing everything about the brain, because it looks like an infinite machine, but there is comfort in the fact that there is a lot to learn It will be exciting It will keep us busy. This is the second book about neuro psychology I ve read and it has been an entirely new experience The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was and reflected in the title as such mainly amusing On the other hand, Phantoms in the Brain is as, again, suggested by the title quite disturbing The first focused on weird cases per se, collecting stories only because they were odd, hence unique The second looks at the same kind of stories as unexpected ways to understand and generalize the inner workings of the brain.And the message is unsettling, even if not entirely surprising It s one thing to presume that sometimes appearances are tricky and a totally different one to learn that you can never totally rely on your senses or your judgment, because almost everything can be simulated by your brain as proved by the symptoms patients develop after a blow, a stroke, a tumor or any other damage, and sometimes even without any visible damage How can be explained, for example, the pain someone feels in an amputated limb Maybe by the hypothesis that pain is an opinion on the organism s state of health rather than a mere reflexive response to an injury There are many syndromes of the same kind that lead to the same uncomfortable conclusion that the ownership of our body is an illusion Charles Bonnet syndrome a damage in the visual pathway causes a special sort of blindness reality is replaced by some vivid visual hallucinations Capgras syndrome the patient, otherwise mentally lucid comes to regard his close relatives as impostors Cotard s syndrome the patient claims that he is dead, that his flesh smells rotten and that worms crawl over his skin Fregoli s syndrome the patient keeps seeing the same person everywhere here is a possible explanation for racism one person generated the race hate after an unpleasant episode.Whether these syndromes could be explained by some damages in the brain, there are other examples with not so evident answers the idiot savant syndrome persons whose IQ are very low but have islands of astonishing talent or the fact that when stimulating the temporal lobes you can experience God Through conscious beings the universe has generated self awareness This can be no trivial detail, no minor by product of mindless, purposeless forces We are truly meant to be here.Are we I don t think brain science alone, despite all its triumphs, will ever answer that question But that we can ask the question at all is, to me, the most puzzling aspect of our existence.In other words, we know that self awareness is our greatest gift The question is is it not also our greatest punishment Neuroscientist VS Ramachandran Is Internationally Renowned For Uncovering Answers To The Deep And Quirky Questions Of Human Nature That Few Scientists Have Dared To Address His Bold Insights About The Brain Are Matched Only By The Stunning Simplicity Of His Experiments Using Such Low Tech Tools As Cotton Swabs, Glasses Of Water And Dime Store Mirrors In Phantoms In The Brain, Dr Ramachandran Recounts How His Work With Patients Who Have Bizarre Neurological Disorders Has Shed New Light On The Deep Architecture Of The Brain, And What These Findings Tell Us About Who We Are, How We Construct Our Body Image, Why We Laugh Or Become Depressed, Why We May Believe In God, How We Make Decisions, Deceive Ourselves And Dream, Perhaps Even Why We Re So Clever At Philosophy, Music And Art Some Of His Most Notable Cases A Woman Paralyzed On The Left Side Of Her Body Who Believes She Is Lifting A Tray Of Drinks With Both Hands Offers A Unique Opportunity To Test Freud S Theory Of DenialA Man Who Insists He Is Talking With God Challenges Us To Ask Could We Be Wired For Religious Experience A Woman Who Hallucinates Cartoon Characters Illustrates How, In A Sense, We Are All Hallucinating, All The TimeDr Ramachandran S Inspired Medical Detective Work Pushes The Boundaries Of Medicine S Last Great Frontier The Human Mind Yielding New And Provocative Insights Into The Big Questions About Consciousness And The Self V S Ramachandran Sandra Blakeslee , Ramachandran .