An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains

Book - 2018
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An Amazon Best Nonfiction Book of the Month

Indiebound Bestseller

Award-winning science writer Helen Thomson unlocks the biggest mysteries of the human brain by examining nine extraordinary cases

Our brains are far stranger than we think. We take it for granted that we can remember, feel emotion, navigate, empathise and understand the world around us, but how would our lives change if these abilities were dramatically enhanced - or disappeared overnight?

Helen Thomson has spent years travelling the world, tracking down incredibly rare brain disorders. In Unthinkable she tells the stories of nine extraordinary people she encountered along the way. From the man who thinks he's a tiger to the doctor who feels the pain of others just by looking at them to a woman who hears music that's not there, their experiences illustrate how the brain can shape our lives in unexpected and, in some cases, brilliant and alarming ways.

Story by remarkable story, Unthinkable takes us on an unforgettable journey through the human brain. Discover how to forge memories that never disappear, how to grow an alien limb and how to make better decisions. Learn how to hallucinate and how to make yourself happier in a split second. Find out how to avoid getting lost, how to see more of your reality, even how exactly you can confirm you are alive. Think the unthinkable.

Publisher: New York, New York : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, ©2018.
ISBN: 9780062391162
Characteristics: 275 pages ;,24 cm


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IndyPL_SteveB Feb 03, 2019

Thought-provoking non-fiction about people with strange brain conditions. It is similar in format to books by neurologists Oliver Sacks and V.S. Ramachandran, but less technical. Thomson’s skill at bringing out the personalities of her subjects and her interest in the philosophical question of “what is normal?” make this a book that any reader will be interested in.

Thomson interviews nine people who have very unusual mental differences. Some of these are completely negative but most could be both talents and obsessions, depending on how the user handles them. These include people who cannot forget any day of their lives, who cannot know their location even in their own homes, or who see other people and words in distinct colors. There is a man with Cotard’s Syndrome – he thought he was dead. There are people who think that they turn into animals while under stress.

A particularly interesting situation is a doctor who has a condition in which the part of the brain which manages empathy is over stimulated. When someone else feels pain or even touch, he physically feels it, too. As a doctor this is an advantage, in that he can often detect when a patient is covering up an emotion or a painful area. It also means extreme agony for him if he has to witness surgery.

Excellent writing, accessible to most readers.

Nov 30, 2018

Fascinating! A great mix of science, personal stories, and memoir. The author is clearly fascinated by the "strange brain" and her background in neuroscience and science journalism make this an accessible journey through interesting cases of what some people's brains are capable of.

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