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Conversations With Neil's Brain: The Neural Nature Of Thought And Language Paperback – April 25, 1995

4 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (April 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201483378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201483376
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William H. Calvin, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is the author of Global Fever: How to Treat Climate Change (University of Chicago Press 2008, see Global-Fever.org) and thirteen earlier books for general readers. He studies brain circuitry, ape-to-human evolution, climate change, and civilization's vulnerability to abrupt shocks.

In Global Fever, he writes: "The climate doctors have been consulted; the lab reports have come back. Now it's time to pull together the Big Picture and discuss treatment options. At a time when architects are thinking ahead to more efficient buildings and power planners are extolling the virtues of "renewable energy," the climate modelers have discovered that long-term planning will no longer suffice. Our fossil fuel fiasco has already painted us into a corner such that, if we don't make substantial near-term gains before 2020, the long-term is pre-empted, the efforts all for naught. We are already in dangerous territory and have to act quickly to avoid triggering widespread catastrophes. The only good analogy is arming for a great war, doing what must be done regardless of cost and convenience."

His climate talk in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People is available in streaming video as are other recent lectures at NASA and Rice University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Conversations with Neil's Brain By Calvin & Ojemann.
Reviewed by Dr. Charles Finlay
This is a trip through the brain, "Neil's Brain," Traveling through dendrites, axioms, and the web of the neuro-cortex into a better comprehension of what the brain does. Deep into the amygdala across to the hippocampus and onto the frontal lobe, all in a well mapped adventure to a better perception how our brains work. Neil, who's brain we examine, is a combination of treatments and discoveries about the brain rolled into one person. This is a well-written story about a "subject" with a dilemma that can be remedied by the use of brain surgery. As we travel the neuro-cortex of "Neil's Brain" the mystery of how the brain works is simplified into an understanding of the inner machinery of the living brain. If you are interested in the how and why the brain does what it does this is a good place to start. Conversations with Neil's Brain is an adventure and a "text" book. It is fun to read and overflows with information on the parts and process of the brain.
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I read this book as part of my first neurobiology course and I thought it was just awesome. The book is written so that most people (not only undergraduate neurobiology majors) will be able to understand and appreciate it.

It's an awesome book, which explains how the brain works by going through conversations between a surgeon and his curious patient.
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Format: Paperback
William H. Calvin (born 1939) is a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, and a well-known popularizer of neuroscience and evolutionary biology (e.g., see his books The Ascent of Mind: Ice Age Climates and the Evolution of Intelligence, Inside the Brain). George Ojemann is a neurosurgeon, who collaborated with Calvin on the 'Inside the Brain' book.

They wrote in this 1994 book, "rather than consciousness or awareness, neurologists prefer to talk about something they can objectively measure: levels of arousability... Arousal is not the same as attention, another aspect of consciousness. Arousal is general, not specific like attention... But equating 'conscious' with 'arousable' creates appalling problems. It tends to ber interpreted as ascribing consciousness to any organism that has irritability. And irritability is a property of all living tissue... With so many major synonyms... you can see why everyone gets a little confused talking about consciousness." (Pg. 22-23)

They observe, "Somewhere... during the 6 million years since we last shared a common ancestor with our chimpanzee cousins, our predecessors appear to have minimized a system that assigned meaning to individual sounds... How and when and where was this conversion done? That's the big question of anthropology and linguistics. It appears that much of it probably happened in the last 2.5 million years... because that's when hominid brain size and its surface infolding pattern were also changing...
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