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Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole

What is it like to try to heal the body when the mind is under attack? In this gripping and illuminating book, Dr Allan Ropper reveals the extraordinary stories behind some of the life-altering afflictions that he and his staff are confronted with at the Neurology Unit of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Like Alice in Wonderland, Dr Ropper inhabits a place where absurdities abound: a sportsman who starts spouting gibberish; an undergraduate who suddenly becomes psychotic; a mother who has to decide whether a life locked inside her own head is worth living. How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? Dr Ropper answers these questions by taking the reader into a world where lives and minds hang in the balance.

Am I Dreaming?

When a computer goes wrong, we are told to turn it off and on again. In Am I Dreaming?, science journalist James Kingsland reveals how the human brain is remarkably similar. By rebooting our hard-wired patterns of thinking – through so-called ‘altered states of consciousness’ – we can gain new perspectives into ourselves and the world around us.

From shamans in Peru to tech workers in Silicon Valley, Kingsland provides a fascinating tour through lucid dreams, mindfulness, hypnotic trances, virtual reality and drug-induced hallucinations. An eye-opening insight into perception and consciousness, this is also a provocative argument for how altered states can significantly boost our mental health.

How The Brain Lost Its Mind

‘Hugely entertaining’ Guardian

‘Fascinating’ Mail on Sunday

In 1882, Jean-Martin Charcot was the premiere physician in Paris, having just established a neurology clinic at the infamous Salpêtrière Hospital, a place that was called a ‘grand asylum of human misery’. Assessing the dismal conditions, he quickly upgraded the facilities, and in doing so, revolutionized the treatment of mental illness.

Many of Charcot’s patients had neurosyphilis (the advanced form of syphilis), a disease of mad poets, novelists, painters, and musicians, and a driving force behind the overflow of patients in Europe’s asylums. A sexually transmitted disease, it is known as ‘the great imitator’ since its symptoms resemble those of almost any biological disease or mental illness. It is also the perfect lens through which to peel back the layers to better understand the brain and the mind. Yet, Charcot’s work took a bizarre turn when he brought mesmerism – hypnotism – into his clinic, abandoning his pursuit of the biological basis of illness in favour of the far sexier and theatrical treatment of female ‘hysterics’, whose symptoms mimic those seen in brain disease, but were elusive in origin. This and a general fear of contagion set the stage for Sigmund Freud, whose seductive theory, Freudian analysis, brought sex and hysteria onto the psychiatrist couch, leaving the brain behind.

How The Brain Lost Its Mind tells this rich and compelling story, and raises a host of philosophical and practical questions. Are we any closer to understanding the difference between a sick mind and a sick brain? The real issue remains: where should neurology and psychiatry converge to explore not just the brain, but the nature of the human psyche?