Scientific American MIND Reviews The Man Who Wasn’t There

The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Selfby Anil AnanthaswamyDutton, 2015 ($26.95) For centuries philosophers, theologians and psychologists—including René Descartes, the Buddha and William James—have mused over the nature of the self: Is it an illusion, or is it real? If it does exist, where in the brain does it reside? Modern neuroscience has not resolved the debate but does offer tantalizing glimpses of the brain regions shaping our sense of self, argues science writer Ananthaswamy in his new book The Man Who Wasn’t There. In particular, he focuses on what we can learn from certain neuropsychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, that ultimately serve to dissolve our identity. Ananthaswamy recounts, for instance, the story of a patient who exhibited the hallmark…

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