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Conversations With Neil's Brain: The Neural Nature Of Thought And Language

by William H. Calvin And George A. Ojemann

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From Publishers Weekly
The Neil named in the title, identified as an engineer who became epileptic after fracturing his skull, undergoes brain surgery to remove part of his temporal lobe in the hope of eliminating his seizures. By stimulating his cerebral cortex, doctors map regions that control his memory, movement and his ability to use language. "Neil" is actually a composite of several epileptic patients, a device neurophysiologist Calvin and neurosurgeon Ojemann, both at the University of Washington, use to good effect, as they did in their earlier collaboration Inside the Brain. In a model of lucid scientific exposition, they scan recent research on memory, language and learning disabilities to explore links between brain damage and schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, sociopathic behavior and depression. Illustrating their points with far-ranging examples, the authors cite, among others, Virginia Woolf who, in her manic episodes, would talk almost without stopping for two or three days, and Woodrow Wilson whose strokes paralyzed his left side and gave him "mild paranoia," leaving him unable to argue effectively for the League of Nations. Illustrations.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Neurophysiologist Calvin and neurosurgeon Ojemann succeed admirably in describing the anatomy and physiology of the brain-undoubtedly the most complex organ in the human body-in very understandable terms. Using the ploy of a dialog with a brain surgery candidate named Neil, the authors answer many puzzling questions concerning the brain's functions. Neil, who suffers from epileptic seizures as a result of brain damage sustained in an auto accident, is eager to have the damaged cells removed. During the course of extensive conversations, Neil learns about memory, moods, motor functions, language, thought patterns, and visual comprehension. Line drawings enhance the explanations. This fascinating book is recommended for consumer health collections.
Carol R. Glatt, VA Medical Ctr. Lib., Philadelphia
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Physicist-turned-neurophysiologist Calvin and neurosurgeon Ojemann examine memory, language, and epilepsy. Most of their text is cleverly arranged in the form of conversation, which enables keeping the book lively, expanding upon unclear points where immediately necessary, and dealing with bite-size pieces. The Neil of their title (who had not been wearing his seatbelt 15 years earlier when the crash occurred that caused his epilepsy) is a composite of various patients and their neural peculiarities that allows the pair to raise a broader variety of questions, facts, and theories than they could have done by sticking with any single patient. Exploring Neil's brain, they explore the central nervous system in a logical manner--hardly a cut-and-dried situation, since brain maps are as various as faces--and when causes are not known and problems have not been solved, they say so. The many helpful, clearly labeled illustrations greatly assist the reader's understanding, as may the 35 pages of valuable notes and references that conclude this informative and lucid book. William Beatty

From Kirkus Reviews
A demanding but rewarding report that illuminates what neurology can now tell us about the human brain. Calvin (Neurophysiology/Univ. of Washington) and Ojemann, a neurosurgeon, collaborated previously on Inside the Brain (not reviewed), which, like the present book, followed a patient named Neil through neurosurgery. Here, Neil is a composite of several temporal-lobe epileptics. Calvin, who narrates this first-person account, opens with an operating room scene in which Ojemann will remove part of Neil's brain in an attempt to end his epileptic seizures. During part of the procedure, Neil is awake and participating actively in various tests, some designed to locate specific areas in his brain that will be either spared or removed by the surgeon, and some conducted in the interests of research. Calvin presents Neil as an intelligent, curious layman with whom he meets regularly in the hospital cafeteria, where Neil asks leading questions about the brain and Calvin answers them at considerable length. All but one of these conversations take place before Neil's operation, and they make up most of the book. Subjects explored include the functional organization of the brain, why strokes in certain areas have certain effects, consciousness, memory, mood and thought disorders, vision, and language. Though written for the general reader, the text occasionally assumes considerable familiarity with the concepts and terminology of neurology. Black-and-white drawings intended to clarify the text unfortunately sometimes have the opposite effect, for they can be discouragingly technical, but this a relatively minor flaw. For the persistent and serious reader the text is full of information that indicates how far the human mind has come in understanding the brain and yet how much remains to be learned. High marks for being both instructive and entertaining. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From the Author
It's a tour of the human cerebral cortex, conducted from the operating room, and has been on the New Scientist bestseller list of science books. It is suitable for biology and cognitive neuroscience supplementary reading lists.

About the Author
William H. Calvin, Ph.D., is a neurobiologist, Affiliate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington. http://WilliamCalvin.com.

George A. Ojemann, M.D., is Professor of Neurological Surgery, University of Washington.

They collaborated on an earlier book, "Inside the Brain."



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