Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Man Who Wasn't There

(Little girl born without a face, but is otherwise happy and healthy. Her self image wasn't damaged because she was given unconditional love early, and after surgery grew up in a loving family, treated by everyone as an equal.)

THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE by Anil Ananthaswamy is an exploration of mystery of where in the human body the sense of consciousness resides. It appears that neuroscience has narrowed down a small area of the brain that assembles information from the rest of the brain, and that this region, if disturbed, can produce profound changes to our perception of self—the feeling that we own and/or control our bodies. The hope is that this may explain out of body experiences, or the phantom limb phenomenon. A fascinating test the author underwent made him believe a rubber hand was his own, even to the point of feeling it. So where is the “soul?” How do all the processes which the two halves of the brain process produce a sense of self, an ego? There are implications here to understanding Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and various neurosis. But beyond that, beyond all the examples given, there remains the mystery of how the brain fills in the signals it receives from the senses to create a uniform feeling of presence and identity. If we could understand that, we’d have a chance at affecting change from the current delusion of domination, which the human ego is prone toward succumbing. Read by Rene Ruiz, the audiobook is also an evocative history of misperceptions and hallucinations, within the search for understanding how the brain creates the illusion of self to sustain its health. Ananthaswamy is a science journalist working with New Scientist magazine. 
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