Tom MacWright

I read Phantoms in the Brain by V. S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee on


Phantoms in the Brain is a thoroughly enjoyable, very accessible book about oddities in neuroscience. Except for its last chapter, about qualia and consciousness, it deals with the unusual - phantom limbs, the effects of strokes, how different clots and damages to the brain can affect people. Lots of good stuff.

Dr. Ramachandran’s personality reminded me of Feynman in books like Six Easy Pieces. He’s an optimist, an experimentalist, a believer in taking big swings at big discoveries. The brain, being such an irreducible mess, is interesting in that light - in one moment, he’s identifying specific regions that are ‘remapped’ after people lose a limb, and in the next, we’re just discussing how little we know, how things like multiple personality disorder has no convincing explanation.

Overall, a very enjoyable read. The last chapter, about consciousness, feels different than the rest - taking on a less tractable, less entertaining subject. He lost me a bit in that chapter. But the rest is very good.