Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole

Allan Ropper Brian David Burrell

RRP: £9.99

7 January 2016

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781782395508

RRP: £17.99

1 January 2015

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781782395478

RRP: £9.49

2 October 2014

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781782395492

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.

Neurologists diagnose and treat serious illnesses of the brain by combining the hard science of medical knowledge with the art of intuitive reasoning. The unique challenge they face is that their primary sources of information – the patients’ brains – are quite often altered, sometimes bizarrely, as a result of disease. 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 salesman who drives around and around a roundabout, unable to get off; a child molester who, after falling on the ice, is left with a brain that is very much dead inside a body that is very much alive; a figure skater whose body has become a ticking time-bomb; 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? How does one train the next generation of clinicians to deal with the moral and medical aspects of brain disease? Dr Ropper answers these questions by taking the reader into a world where lives and minds hang in the balance.


Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole tells it like it is on the front line of clinical neurology. Engagingly written, informative, often funny, it also manages to be moving without slipping into the sentimentality that too often infests medical writing... If ever anything goes wrong with my brain, I'd like a doctor like Ropper to help sort me out.Paul Broks
Daily Telegraph

Ropper charts his 40-year career using dozens of case histories: think Oliver Sacks meets Gregory House, with a sprinkling of a hypochondriac's worst nightmare. Each tale illuminates the remarkable way, not just in which the brain works, but how Ropper diagnoses what is going on.
Sunday Times

In Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole leading US neurologist Allan Ropper recounts some of the bizarre and confounding symptoms he has to grapple with to make successful diagnoses... Told in a breezy style through a series of real-life case studies, Ropper's book offers a fascinating glimpse of the ways in which our brain can go wrong.
Financial Times

Allan Ropper's new memoir, Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole, has the hard-boiled style of a Raymond Chandler novel. Like a real-life Dr House, Ropper follows hunches and has sudden startling insights.
The Times

Peppered with insights into the scientific method, emphasizing that it's not the cold, rational, Sherlock Holmes-like deductive process it's often portrayed to be. Medical writing at its best.
V. S. Ramachandran, bestselling author of The Tell-Tale Brain

Fantastic . . . This peek inside the sick brain, by a foremost neurologist, helps readers truly appreciate how calamities like brain tumors, stroke, Parkinson's, seizures and other diseases affect us. His stories are sometimes painful, sometimes heartwarming, but invariably tremendously illuminating.
Elizabeth Loftus, author of The Myth of Repressed Memory

An in-the-trenches exploration of the challenging world of the clinical neurologist. From the quotidian to the exotic, from the heart-breaking to the humorous, the authors present an honest and compelling look at one of medicine's most fascinating specialties.
Dr Michael Collins, author of Hot Lights, Cold Steel