A Portrait of the Brain Adam Zeman

Publication date:
22 Jul 2009
Yale University Press
256 pages: 229 x 152mm
16 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Bizarre, perplexing, and moving cases of brain disorder, told by a neurologist with an extraordinary gift for storytelling

In this compelling book, neurologist Adam Zeman tells the stories of patients with a variety of neurological disorders, some familiar (epilepsy, chronic fatigue, stroke, memory loss) and others relatively mysterious (narcolepsy, chronic déjà vu, compulsive fidgeting, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). Chapter by chapter, the author  reveals the various levels of the brain, from the atom to the mind, and explores what happens when workings at each level go awry. Zeman requires of his readers no special knowledge of medicine or science, yet he takes us to the very frontiers of current scientific knowledge and elucidates the workings of the brain in astonishing detail.

The book weaves together fascinating case histories, clear accounts of concepts and discoveries in neuroscience, and an intimate view of the suspense, excitement, fun, and angst that color a neurologist’s days. Zeman also considers what the brain’s behavior and misbehavior can tell us about the human self as physical system, living creature, and conscious mind. In a final chapter he reflects on the place of the mind in nature. On every page Zeman both entertains and informs, and readers will find themselves pondering the enigmas of brain and mind long after closing the covers of this thought-provoking volume.

Adam Zeman is professor of cognitive and behavioral neurology, Peninsula Medical School, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. He is the author of Consciousness: A User’s Guide, published by Yale University Press. He lives in Exeter, UK.

"Zeman weaves case studies of patients together with basic science, history, etymology, classical literature and art to produce an erudite discourse on brain components."
- Sandra Aamodt, Nature

"Zeman confidently fleshes out and illustrates his work with quotes and stories from the reaches of literature. Shakespeare, Hippocrates, and Freud put in appearances, but so does singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. The excerpts are always relevant, and often unusual. This book is, in short, a remarkable achievement. Hand a copy of it to a student pondering their speciality, or a teenager deciding which exams to take, and it might well tip the balance: neurology has found a fine advocate."
- Talha Burki, The Lancet

"... a fascinating tale about what we do know about the brain, and what happens when it goes wrong ... [Zeman] comes across as a lucid explainer of scientific complexity, but also as a humane medical practitioner."
- Clive Cookson, Financial Times Magazine

"... this is an excellent introduction to the subject ... Professor Zeman comes across as the kind of man one would be glad to consult if anything went wrong inside one's skull."
- Nigel Hawkes, The Times