Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease

Allan H. Ropper and Brian David Burrell. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-03499-1
Ropper, a professor at Harvard Medical School and founder of neurological intensive care, and Burrell (Postcards from the Brain Museum) present an intriguing, if meandering, account of neurology’s real-world applicability. The authors repeatedly emphasize, that proper diagnoses of neurological issues require both intensive study and exquisite intuition because the brain is so mysterious. Among the many patients featured is a chronic-pain faker who tries to score drugs and gets caught red-handed as well as a psychotic whose confusion, unlike other patients with severe cognitive problems, has its “own internal logic,” leading him to believe Ropper was two different people despite exhibiting full awareness of his surroundings. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Ropper’s work is that every individual’s mind, both in sickness and in health, is as unique as the proverbial snowflake. “Up on the ward,” he says, “every grand theory of mind and every sweeping generalization about consciousness falls apart when exposed to the cold, hard truth of a single case.” The book struggles to coalesce around a central claim or message of particular intrigue, though Ropper and Burrell still lead the reader a captivating stroll through the concepts and realities of neurological science. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 06/30/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-250-07040-1
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-1-250-03498-4
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