CONVERSATIONS WITH NEIL'S BRAIN: The Neural Nature of Thought and Language by

CONVERSATIONS WITH NEIL'S BRAIN: The Neural Nature of Thought and Language

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A demanding but rewarding report that illuminates what neurology can now tell us about the human brain. Calvin (Neurophysiology/Univ. of Washington) and Ojemann, a neurosurgeon, collaborated previously on Inside the Brain (not reviewed), which, like the present book, followed a patient named Nell through neurosurgery. Here, Nell is a composite of several temporal-lobe epileptics. Calvin, who narrates this first-person account, opens with an operating room scene in which Ojemann will remove part of Nell's brain in an attempt to end his epileptic seizures. During part of the procedure, Nell is awake and participating actively in various tests, some designed to locate specific areas in his brain that will be either spared or removed by the surgeon, and some conducted in the interests of research. Calvin presents Nell as an intelligent, curious layman with whom he meets regularly in the hospital cafeteria, where Nell asks leading questions about the brain and Calvin answers them at considerable length. All but one of these conversations take place before Nell's operation, and they make up most of the book. Subjects explored include the functional organization of the brain, why strokes in certain areas have certain effects, consciousness, memory, mood and thought disorders, vision, and language. Though written for the general reader, the text occasionally assumes considerable familiarity with the concepts and terminology of neurology. Black-and-white drawings intended to clarify the text unfortunately sometimes have the opposite effect, for they can be discouragingly technical, but this a relatively minor flaw. For the persistent and serious reader the text is full of information that indicates how far the human mind has come in understanding the brain and yet how much remains to be learned. High marks for being both instructive and entertaining.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley