A Story of Human Feeling
In this riveting journey through the hidden realms of the human mind, a world-renowned psychiatrist and neuroscientist explores the origins of human emotion, and examines what mental illnesses reveal about all of us - how the broken can illuminate the unbroken.
Mental illness is one of the greatest causes of human suffering, but the reasons we bear this burden, and the nature of these diseases, have remained mysterious. Now, our understanding has reached a tipping point. In Connections, Professor Karl Deisseroth intertwines gripping case studies from his experience as an emergency psychiatry physician, with breakthrough scientific discoveries from astounding new technology (including optogenetics, which he developed to allow turning specific brain cells on or off, with light).
By linking insights from this technology to deeply moving stories of his patients and to our shared evolutionary history, Deisseroth tells a larger story about the origins of human emotion. A young woman with an eating disorder reveals how the mind can rebel against the brain's most primitive drives of hunger and thirst; an older man, smothered into silence by dementia, shows how humans evolved to feel joy and its absence; and a lonely Uyghur woman far from her homeland teaches both the importance - and challenges - of deep social bonds.
Addressing some of the most timeless questions about the human condition while illuminating the roots of misunderstood disorders such as depression, psychosis, schizophrenia and sociopathy, Connections transforms the way we understand the brain, and our selves.
Praise for Connections
'Deisseroth writes of heartbreaking and desperate medical cases with a doctor's knowledge, and a novelist's skill for narrative. I could not put this book down'May-Britt Moser, Nobel Laureate
'I've known Karl as a colleague, a scientist whose discoveries in the lab have been breathtaking and revolutionary. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised to discover he's also a stunning writer, his words guiding us to a profound understanding of the nature of human emotions, seamlessly invoking Ovid and optogenetics, Borges and basal ganglia as he takes on this journey. Projections is a tour de force'Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
'Karl Deisseroth intertwines neuroscience and human stories in a way that is altogether new: technical, lyrical, and deeply compassionate all at once. Through sharing what he's learned as a groundbreaking scientist and a psychiatrist caring for patients with severe illness, he reveals glimmer of what makes us human. This is a crucial book for anyone who loves science, anyone who loves someone suffering from a disorder of the brain, or anyone who, like so many of us, loves both'Lucy Kalanithi
'Unique and utterly riveting, Projections braids together three skeins from Karl Deisseroth's life: his painstaking clinical experience as a psychiatrist, dedicated to helping patients; his ingenious inventions in biotechnology that have ushered in waves of new insights into how brains work; and his life as a humble and caring social human being with a gift for crafting a spellbinding chronicle. This is a masterpiece written for each and every one of us'Patricia Churchland, author of Conscience
'Karl Deisseroth is already known around the world as a groundbreaking scientist who has pioneered dazzling new techniques for investigating the brain. In this enthralling masterpiece of a book, he demonstrates that he is also a perceptive psychiatrist, as well as a spellbinding writer who beautifully connects the inner feelings within all human beings to deep insights from modern psychiatry and neuroscience'Robert Lefkowitz, Nobel Laureate and author of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm
'We are living during a revolution in our understanding of the human brain, and Karl Deisseroth has been at the forefront of these advances. This magisterial work shows that not only is he one of our leading scientists, but also a gifted writer and storyteller. With precise yet luminous prose, he merges stories of cutting-edge neuroscience with a deep reverence for his patients' humanity'Neil Shubin, author of Some Assembly Required
'Deisseroth, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, melds the personal with the clinical in his masterful debut on how the human mind works and what can be learned when it goes awry ... writing with abundant empathy, Deisseroth brings his patients' struggles to life as he educates about both neuroscience and humanity. This is a must-read'Publishers Weekly
'The writing in this exploration of what causes human emotion at a cellular level is extraordinarily good, inviting comparisons with the work of Oliver Sacks and Henry Marsh' (Editor's Choice)Bookseller
'I find myself at a loss for how to describe this remarkable work. Just as Karl has, through his laboratory, reimagined, and literally redefined how we view the human brain, he has reimagined and redefined what literary non-fiction can be, with great elegance. For all of us who write about science for the public, this will be a tough act to follow. It's poetic, mind-stretching, and through it all, deeply human'Daniel Levitin
'There are some books that you read and forget. There are others that you read and think about occasionally. Then there are rare gems like Connections that you read, read again and find that the way you think has been irreversibly changed. Incredibly powerful'Sue Black, author of All That Remains
'Karl Deisseroth is a master storyteller. Armed with an abundance of compassion and curiosity, he takes us on a spellbinding tour of the mysteries of the human mind through a series of fascinating case studies. His graceful prose weaves a tapestry of complex ideas into memorable stories, each illuminated by cutting-edge science. A delight from the opening paragraph to the stunning conclusion, this book is an invitation to reverence for the complexity of the human brain and its relationship to the mind: a ticket to a state of wonder at the essence of our selves'Kathryn Mannix, author of With the End in Mind
'Revelatory ... it recalls the case histories of Oliver Sacks, at times the sweep of Yuval Harari's Sapiens. He writes with an evident love of words - but also, with a lucid line of scientific enquiry'Richard Godwin, Guardian
'Deisseroth is a talented writer ... It is in his encounters with distressed patients that his talent for marrying science and the imagination becomes most apparent and that his writing comes truly alive. Connections warrants comparison with books such as Do No Harm by Henry Marsh and Brainstorm by Suzanne Sullivan . . . Deisseroth achieves the difficult feat of moving and enlightening the reader at the same time ... [this is] a book that is beautiful to read and packed with cutting edge science'Mark Honigsbaum, Observer
'Karl Deisseroth's imaginative narrative flows effortlessly... There is a first love of reading and writing and hints of a literary imagination that draws on James Joyce and Toni Morrison... Deisseroth endeavors to find an emotive language for the psychiatric patients he meets. He accomplishes this by weaving together... psychiatric knowledge, technology, and imagination. These together free him to write poetically... His narratives are always sensitive... an admixture of fact and fiction, reality and imagination, damage and desire'Science
'[Deisseroth's] scintillating and moving analysis of the human brain and emotions, based on observations of his patients, proves he is not exaggerating. It is also a great read'Nature
'Deisseroth is a genuine pioneer, whose prize-winning research is re-defining our understanding of the brain... a stunning work from a relatively young man set on revealing the threads connecting our most pressing personal concerns with our timeless biological inheritance... Deisseroth has the imagination and literary gift to make it speak to all of us'Literary Review
'Essential...tinged with a profound humility built over years of interactions with patients... this is big'Psychology Today
'This hybrid memoir, by an emergency-room psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and bioengineering, probes the evolutionary origins of human emotions'New Yorker