- Series: Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 3, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393705579
- ISBN-13: 978-0393705577
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,424,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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From Axons to Identity: Neurological Explorations of the Nature of the Self (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) 1st Edition
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The big questions facing neuroscience are about how brain circuits contribute to self and personality, to identity. Todd Feinberg is one of the few clinician-scientists tackling these complex and important issues. I enjoyed From Axons to Identity and learned a lot, especially from the telling case studies. (Joseph LeDoux, University Professor, NYU, and author of Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are and of The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life)
From Axons to Identity confirms Todd Feinberg’s status as one of the world’s leading thinkers on the neuropsychology of selfhood. He is probing one of the Big Questions of 21st-century neuroscience: How does the brain, with its diverse and distributed functions, come to arrive at a unified sense of identity? The result is a genuinely radical and illuminating synthesis of philosophical and scientific ideas. This is exhilarating stuff. (Paul Broks, neuropsychologist and author of Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology)
From Axons to Identity is a rich, thought-provoking, and rewarding book with much to teach anyone interested in questions about mind and brain. (Metapsychology Online Reviews)
About the Author
Todd E. Feinberg, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Chief of the Yarmon Neurobehavior and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, is internationally recognized as a leading authority on how the neurobiology of the brain creates the individual’s sense of identity. Dr. Feinberg has been featured on Dateline NBC, The Leonard Lopate Show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, The Learning Channel, among other appearances. Dr. Feinberg is the author of Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self and has written nearly 100 articles, abstracts, or books.
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Top Customer Reviews
The first chapters describe various types of brain lesions and their respective symptoms which, from the outside, may seem rather bizarre. But what Feinberg does here is much more than a simple description. He tries to understand why the patients have these particular, rather than other, symptoms. By going beyond neurology he raises the question regarding the meaning and personal relevance of these symptoms and argues that they can be considered as defense or compensatory strategies to overcome the deficits induced by the brain lesion. This puts him close to psychoanalysis as founded by Sigmund Freud and his concept of defense mechanisms as hierchically ordered and structured mechanisms of how to deal with conflict. Furthermore, in chapter 4 Feinberg discusses his concept of the self as a conscious mental unity over time in the context of Freud's concept of the ego. Though there are differences, both share the notion that the self or ego corresponds to some kind of organization and structure. This is picked up in chapter 5 where Feinberg discusses the neural mechanisms underlying such a concept of self. He argues that there is a certain hierarchy of higher and lower regions in the brain but that both are mutually dependent on each other; they represent, as he says, a "nested hierarchy". Chapters 6-8 put such concepts of self and brain into the context of philosophical problems like the mind-body problem, mental unity, and consciousness; argues that the latter, consciousness, is a process. This lets him to conclude that our self is a process; it is not what the brain is but, as he says, "what the brain does".
This is a remarkable book since it closely intertwines neurological, neuroscientific, psychodynamic and philosophical issues without reducing them to each other as it so often theses days is the case. Feinberg demonstrates his excellence within and across fields, and also shows his ability to link them. It is in these linkages between the different disciplines where he finds and "locates" the self. A marvelous book and a "Must" read for everybody who deals with the self - his own self and the selves of others - be it personally, scientifically or philosophically.
Dr Georg Northoff
First of all, I'm delighted to see that a book like this, that tries to answer some of the deepest questions of both science and philosophy, is written by an astutely observant clinician. There are many ways to try to understand how a physical brain could be responsible for the behaviors, perceptions, and experiences that make us human. The study of normals through psychological paradigms and functional imaging contributes much to our understanding. However, as Feinberg's fascinating case descriptions illustrate, careful assessment of brain damaged individuals remains our clearest window into the neurological basis of the psyche.
Second, Feinberg introduces a general audience to the elegant concept of the nested hierarchy which helps him to create the necessary framework to make complicated ideas about the philosophy of the functioning brain readily accessible to his reader. The nested hierarchy shows how consciousness and the creation of a observing self becomes conceivable only when we understand how all the levels of our central nervous system can make their own contribution to the final product. The nested hierarchy explains how our unified, subjective experience can be a product of biological evolution and gives real substance to the modern understanding of mind developed by the philosopher John Searles. (It is worth mentioning here the exquisite organization of this book which is itself a kind of nested hierarchy weaving together clinical observation, developmental psychology- with a nod to psychoanalysis, brain anatomy, biological theory, and finally, philosophy, to build up a credible explanation of the self).
Finally, as a psychiatric educator, I can heartily recommend this book as a primer for all mental health clinicians to the neuroscience and philosophy that now form the basis of our work.
For his next book I would love for Feinberg to begin to focus on the clinical implications of his ideas.