How The Brain Lost Its Mind
Dr Allan Ropper
‘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 Salpetriere 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?
Ropper and Burrell have written an insightful, fantastically readable analysis of what was once called "hysteria." Also, by studying how things can go wrong, we learn a great deal about the working of the human mind when things go right. * Elizabeth Loftus, author of Eyewitness Testimony * Through tales of eminent physicians and their suffering patients, replete with sex, drugs, and magnetically-induced hypnotism, we learn how a bacterium that deprived countless souls of their reason also helped scientists discover a role for brain biology in mental illness. * Alan Jasanoff, PhD, author of The Biological Mind * This aptly titled book picks up where Oliver Sacks left off in examining the behavioral characteristics of neurobehavioral syndromes in an effort to span the gap that has historically separated the twin disciplines of the brain, neurology and psychiatry. * Jeffrey A. Lieberman, author of Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry * Rich, compassionate and passionate... Sceptical of the excesses of both psychological and biological reductionism, it is a refreshing call for an intellectual reset and disciplinary rapprochement. -- Anne Harrington * Nature * Central to this book is the ongoing dispute regarding which mental illnesses can be attributed to physical abnormalities within the brain and which originate in the mind, or consciousness. The authors emphasise that in many cases we still cannot be sure... Along the way, their investigations exhume some unforgettable scenes and characters... Fascinating * Mail on Sunday * A rollicking ride, patient by patient, through the history of two conditions, hysteria and neurosyphilis. * The Times * Absorbing and scholarly... A twin biography of psychiatry and neurology, their study charts this uneasy relationship from marriage to divorce to reconciliation even as fundamental questions about the nature of mental illness remain... Hugely entertaining. * Guardian *
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