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The Man Who Wasn't There: Tales from the Edge of the Self

Author: Anil Ananthaswamy

Publisher: Dutton

ISBN 10: 1101984325
ISBN 13: 978-1101984321

ISBN 10: 0525954198
ISBN 13: 978-0525954194

In the tradition of Oliver Sacks, science journalist Anil Ananthaswamy skillfully inspects the bewildering connections among brain, body, mind, self, and society by examining a range of neuropsychological ailments from autism and Alzheimer’s to out-of-body experiences and body integrity identity disorder

Award-winning science writer Anil Ananthaswamy smartly explores the concept of self by way of several mental conditions that eat away at patients’ identities, showing we learn a lot about being human from people with a fragmented or altered sense of self. Ananthaswamy travelled the world to meet those who suffer from “maladies of the self” interviewing patients, psychiatrists, philosophers and neuroscientists along the way. He charts how the self is affected by Asperger’s, autism, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, schizophrenia, among many other mental conditions, revealing how the brain constructs our sense of self. Each chapter is anchored with stories of people who experience themselves differently from the norm. Readers meet individuals in various stages of Alzheimer’s disease where the loss of memory and cognition results in the loss of some aspects of the self. We meet a woman who recalls the feeling of her first major encounter with schizophrenia which she describes as an outside force controlling her.  Ananthaswamy also looks at several less­ familiar conditions, such as Cotard’s syndrome, in which patients believe they are dead, and those with body integrity identity disorder, where the patient seeks to have a body part amputated because it “doesn’t belong to them.”

Moving nimbly back and forth from the individual stories to scientific analysis The Man Who Wasn’t There is a wholly original exploration of the human self which raises fascinating questions about the mind-body connection.