the thinking ape


The greatest mysteries of science lie within the fields of neuroscience and cosmology. How does the brain produce consciousness? How did our universe start and how will it end? The immensity of the intellectual challenge – and the public interest in possible answers – inspires leading practitioners to communicate their ideas through books, in a way that is matched in few other fields of science. A trio of top neuroscientists – VS Ramachandran, Antonio Damasio and Oliver Sacks – have recently published books that convey the excitement of current brain research. Ramachandran has the broadest sweep of the three authors: The Tell-Tale Brain explains how and why the human brain makes us “truly unique and special, not ‘just’ another species of ape”. Damasio is somewhat more limited in scope but even more ambitious in intent: his book Self Comes to Mind attempts to describe the neural processes that give rise to consciousness. And in The Mind’s Eye, Sacks views the workings of the brain through the prism of vision. Although each author has his own distinctive approach, there are many common threads. One is the huge amount that has been learned by studying people with brain abnormalities, whether caused by inheritance, illness or accident.

more from Clive Cookson at the FT here.