Author: Dr. Emily Kalambaheti, Staff Clinician
As the final part of Plasticity® Brain Center’s three-part book review series, I read Dr. V. S. Ramachandran’s nonfiction novel titled, “The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human.” Dr. Ramachandran interwove the complexities of human neurology with simple comparisons of humans and other animals to generate the idea that we are truly unique creatures, and that there are even more intricacies to unravel. Dr. Ramachandran’s way of discussing complex neuronal circuits may not be for someone that has never been introduced to neuroscience or Plasticity®, but for someone with a bit of experience or education, Dr. Ramachandran connects dots that are just underneath the surface.
I began reading “The Tell-Tale Brain,” on a transcontinental flight. While on that flight, I shook my colleague's arm to share information that I was too excited to contain, not once, but several times. In the third chapter, we learned about synesthesia, not just as a rare condition where numbers have colors or textures elicit emotion, but as a phenomenon that occurs in various amounts in most people due to the proximity of certain areas of our brains or the ways circuits can be “crossed-wired.” Synesthesia is mentioned throughout several chapters including the sixth chapter, “The Power of Babble: The Evolution of Language,” when Dr. Ramachandran dives deeper into how our mouth movements can mimic the definition of work we are saying. Think about “you” and the way your lips move away from you as you finish the word (this applies to other languages as well, for example tú in Spanish and vous in French).
Dr. Ramachandran dove into language by breaking it down into vocabulary, “if and then” usage, the use of language to discuss things not currently visible or happening, metaphor and analogy, and recursive syntax. From his book, I could more fully understand the differences in types of aphasias and how people with specific types of aphasias might also have deficiencies in propositional logic and transitivity in abstract thought.
For the duration of Dr. Ramachandran’s “The Tell-Tale Brain,” I was entranced by not only his extensive knowledge of a wide range of topics (language, art, psychology, neurology, and evolution to name a few), but his application of the knowledge. It’s one thing to know about two different topics, but to be able to seamlessly jump from and join the two topics is extraordinary. The research Dr. Ramachandran presented throughout his book could fill binders. I am truly excited to share the information I learned from “The Tell-Tale Brain” to my colleagues, patients, and family. If you are in the field of research or clinical neuroscience, I highly recommend reading Dr. Ramachandran’s work. I loved it so much I will be re-reading “The Tell-Tale Brain” during the holidays to allow for full digestion and appreciation.