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The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery

by Sam Kean


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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316182355
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 74,267
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Sam Kean is the New York Times bestselling author of Caesar's Last Breath, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, The Disappearing Spoon, and The Violinist's Thumb, all of which were also named Amazon top science books of the year.

The Disappearing Spoon was a runner-up for the Royal Society of London's book of the year for 2010, and The Violinist's Thumb and The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons were nominated for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award in 2013 and 2015, as well as the AAAS/Subaru SB&F prize.

His work has appeared in the Best American Nature and Science Writing, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, Psychology Today, Slate, Mental Floss, and other publications, and he has been featured on NPR's "Radiolab," "All Things Considered," and "Fresh Air."

Table of Contents

Part I Gross Anatomy

Introduction 5

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

Acknowledgments 357

Notes and Miscellanea 359

Works Cited 383

Index 397

Reading Group Guide 409

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