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The Man Who Wasn&#039;t There - Anil Ananthaswamy - <span class="date-display-single">10/24/2015 - 11:00am</span>

The Man Who Wasn't There

10/24/2015 - 11:00am

Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

A man who is convinced his leg doesn’t belong to him; a woman with voices in her head telling her to jump off a building; a boy who feels as though he’s living in a constant dream state. These are all real people whose complex neurological disorders have caused a disruptive rift in their sense of self, not to mention in their day-to-day lives. This fall, award-winning journalist and former New Scientist deputy news editor Anil Ananthaswamy explores the minds of these individuals and many more in his fascinating book The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self .
 
In the tradition of Oliver Sacks, Ananthaswamy does not simply present the science; instead, through emotionally layered and in-depth interviews, he reveals the person behind the condition. The Man Who Wasn't There follows Ananthaswamy as he accompanies a body integrity identity disorder (BIID) sufferer to Asia for an amputation, sits in the living room of a couple battling with the daily heartbreak of Alzheimer’s, stands with a woman with schizophrenia at the same spot where she nearly ended her own life years earlier, visits a man on a farm in France whose epilepsy brought about pleasant seizures, and even attempts to induce an out-of-body illusion in himself to better understand the experience.
 
Textured with references to ancient philosophical texts and 19th century psychological records, The Man Who Wasn't There is a new portrait of the human self, based on what 21st century cutting-edge neuroscience is now revealing: that there is no one place in the brain that’s the domain of the self; instead our sense of self is an extraordinary outcome of intricate interactions between brain, body, mind and culture.
 
Ananthaswamy sets the tone with the prologue, which introduces the reader to the idea of self with an ancient Indian Buddhist allegory. From there, he dedicates each chapter to an increasingly incredible list of conditions including Cotard’s syndrome, BIID, depersonalization disorder, schizophrenia, ecstatic epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Autism, and an array of out-of-body experiences, including the bizarre doppelgänger effect.
 
In the end, The Man Who Wasn't There brings the reader to the point where the essential mystery of the self—and its relation to consciousness—becomes abundantly clear. 

Anil Ananthaswamy

About Presenter Anil Ananthaswamy

 

Anil Ananthaswamy is former deputy news editor and current consultant for New Scientist. He is a guest editor at UC Santa Cruz’s renowned science-writing program and teaches an annual science journalism workshop at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. He is a freelance feature editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science’s “Front Matter” and has written for National Geographic News, Discover, and Matter. He has been a columnist for PBS NOVA’s The Nature of Reality blog. He won the UK Institute of Physics’ Physics Journalism award and the British Association of Science Writers’ award for Best Investigative Journalism. His first book, The Edge of Physics, was voted book of the year in 2010 by Physics World.  He lives in Bangalore, India, and Berkeley, California. 

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The Man Who Wasn't There


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