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John, aged sixty, suffered a stroke and recovered fully, except in one respect: although he can see perfectly, he can no longer recognise faces, even his own reflection in a mirror.

Whenever Francesca touches a particular texture, she experiences a vivid emotion: denim = extreme sadness; wax = embarrassment; orange peel = shock.

Jimmie, whose left arm was recently amputated, can still feel it - and it's itchy.

Our brains are the most enchanting and complex things in the known universe - but what happens when they go wrong? Dr V. S. Ramachandran, 'the Sherlock Holmes of brain science' and one of the world's leading neuroscientists, has spent a lifetime working with patients who suffer from rare and baffling brain conditions. In The Tell-Tale Brain, he tells their stories, and explores what they reveal about the greatest mystery of them all: how our minds work, and what makes each of us so uniquely human.

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    Intriguing ideas

    Based heavily on Ramachandran's 2003 Reith Lectures, this is not a rigorous, scholarly exposition of the science of the mind. Rather, it's an informal and at times speculative tour of the fronteirs of Ramachandran's research into consciousness and the nature of the self. Ramachandran convincingly defends his speculations, arguing that they are the necessary first steps up the side of a mountain of unknown height. The tone is entertaining and informal, more like sitting in the common room sharing a brandy with a charismatic professor than attending a lecture. The Reith Lecture series can be downloaded from the BBC website and it's worth doing if only to hear Ramachandran's wonderful speaking voice in your head as you read.


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