The author of the bestseller The Disappearing Spoon reveals the secret inner workings of the brain through strange but true stories.
Early studies of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, horrendous accidents and see how victims coped. In many cases their survival was miraculous, if puzzling. Observers were amazed by the transformations that took place when different parts of the brain were destroyed, altering victims' personalities. Parents suddenly couldn't recognize their own children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars. Some people couldn't speak but could still sing.
In The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, Sam Kean travels through time with stories of neurological curiosities: phantom limbs, Siamese twin brains, viruses that eat patients' memories, blind people who see through their tongues. He weaves these narratives together with prose that makes the pages fly by, to create a story of discovery that reaches back to the 1500s and the high-profile jousting accident that inspired this book's title.* With the lucid, masterful explanations and razor-sharp wit his fans have come to expect, Kean explores the brain's secret passageways and recounts the forgotten tales of the ordinary people whose struggles, resilience, and deep humanity made neuroscience possible.
*"The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons" refers to the case of French king Henri II, who in 1559 was lanced through the skull during a joust, resulting in one of the most significant cases in neuroscience history. For hundreds of years scientists have gained important lessons from traumatic accidents and illnesses, and such misfortunes still represent their greatest resource for discovery.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Sam Kean is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist's Thumb. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, and New Scientist, and has been featured on NPR's "Radiolab" and "All Things Considered."
Table of Contents
Part I Gross Anatomy
Chapter 1 The Dueling Neurosurgeons 17
Part II Cells, Senses, Circuits
Chapter 2 The Assassin's Soup 43
Chapter 3 Wiring and Rewiring 73
Chapter 4 Facing Brain Damage 99
Part III Body and Brain
Chapter 5 The Brain's Motor 129
Chapter 6 The Laughing Disease 155
Chapter 7 Sex and Punishment 183
Part IV Beliefs and Delusions
Chapter 8 The Sacred Disease 215
Chapter 9 "Sleights of Mind" 241
Part V Consciousness
Chapter 10 Honest Lying 267
Chapter 11 Left, Right, and Center 299
Chapter 12 The Man, the Myth, the Legend 329
Notes and Miscellanea 359
Works Cited 383
Reading Group Guide 409
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Mary DeKok Blowers for Readers' Favorite The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery is by Sam Kean. This book begins with the work of a doctor, Andreas Vesalius, who studied the anatomy of gladiators when they were injured, since it was illegal to dissect humans and the gladiators frequently provided severe injuries exposing internal structure. Several other high profile cases are mentioned. When King Henri of France was gouged by a lance in his eye in a jousting match in 1559, a large splinter was removed from his eye, but several others were unable to be removed. He was treated by Parette, who often evaluated the brains of decapitated criminals, sometimes finding swollen and dead tissue, now known as concussions. Henri’s headache increased, which told Parette the blood vessels had ruptured and the blood was expanding in the skull. He finally died of a hemorrhage. At that time an autopsy was allowed. The shards from the lance that could not be removed were found to have penetrated the brain, and large blood clots were discovered that had expanded in the skull and caused Henri’s ultimate demise. Charles Guiteau believed he was told by God to kill President Garfield. He bought a pistol and determined to kill him in church. He shot Garfield at the train station, first nicking him and then hitting his lower back. A Doctor Bliss was assigned to care for Garfield and he subsequently released tidbits of updates to the press. Garfield eventually stabilized and he relocated to New Jersey, but later died of an infection. It was upon an autopsy of Guiteau, after his death sentence was carried out, that his brain was found to have certain abnormalities. Titled in reference to the jousting accident of King Henri, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons contains many other cases which point out the ingenious adaptability of the brain to unfortunate circumstances. James Holman, though totally blind after extensive exploration of Siberia, developed a method of echolocation by using a cane to understand and navigate his surroundings. You will certainly learn more about the anatomy of the brain through Sam Kean’s discussion of dendrites, neurons, and synapses.
Third Sam Kean book I have read. Not disappointed as he makes neuroscience interesting and funny. Also recommend The Disappearing Spoon, the periodic table has never been so fascinating! And The Violinists Thumb does wonders with DNA and genetics! These 3 books would be excellent reading for beginning science classes in each area!
Loved all the amazing facts on neural anatomy I learned in this book, amazing factual accounts.