The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery
From the author of the bestseller The Disappearing Spoon, a new history of the brain told via fascinating tales of the greatest and most astounding injuries in neuroscience
For centuries, scientists had only one way to study the brain: wait for misfortune to strike - strokes, seizures, infections, lobotomies, horrendous accidents, phantom limbs, Siamese twins - and see how the victims changed afterwards. In many cases their survival was miraculous, and observers marvelled at the transformations that took place when different parts of the brain were destroyed. Parents suddenly couldn't recognise their children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars and paedophiles. Some people couldn't speak but could still sing. Others couldn't read but could write.
The stories of these people laid the foundations of modern neuroscience and, century by century, key cases taught scientists what every last region of the brain did. With lucid explanations and incisive wit, Sam Kean explores the brain's secret passageways and recounts the forgotten tales of the ordinary individuals whose struggles, resilience and deep humanity made neuroscience possible.
“Kean's lively new book unpacks a bundle of fascinating, alarming and sometimes heartbreaking case histories”
Mail on Sunday
“Entertaining... Some of his stories are astonishing... Kean tells a good story and asks the right questions”
The Sunday Times
“Kean...reveal[s] how intracranial calamities have built neuroscience case by puzzled-out case, gross anatomy to consciousness. However pop the science, there is much to compel”
“The author's skill in illuminating how the brain functions and malfunctions manifest themselves in people's lives makes for absorbing reading....These avowals ultimately raise weighty, compelling questions about the nature of identity and what it means to be human”
Wall Street Journal