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The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us about Ourselves

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A Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist’s probing investigation of what brain disorders can tell us about human nature Eric R. Kandel, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, is one of the pioneers of modern brain science. His work continues to shape our understanding of how learning and memory wor A Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist’s probing investigation of what brain disorders can tell us about human nature Eric R. Kandel, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, is one of the pioneers of modern brain science. His work continues to shape our understanding of how learning and memory work and to break down age-old barriers between the sciences and the arts. In his seminal new book, The Disordered Mind, Kandel draws on a lifetime of pathbreaking research and the work of many other leading neuroscientists to take us on an unusual tour of the brain. He confronts one of the most difficult questions we face: How does our mind, our individual sense of self, emerge from the physical matter of the brain? The brain’s 86 billion neurons communicate with one another through very precise connections. But sometimes those connections are disrupted. The brain processes that give rise to our mind can become disordered, resulting in diseases such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While these disruptions bring great suffering, they can also reveal the mysteries of how the brain produces our most fundamental experiences and capabilities—the very nature of what it means to be human. Studies of autism illuminate the neurological foundations of our social instincts; research into depression offers important insights on emotions and the integrity of the self; and paradigm-shifting work on addiction has led to a new understanding of the relationship between pleasure and willpower. By studying disruptions to typical brain functioning and exploring their potential treatments, we will deepen our understanding of thought, feeling, behavior, memory, and creativity. Only then can we grapple with the big question of how billions of neurons generate consciousness itself.


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A Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist’s probing investigation of what brain disorders can tell us about human nature Eric R. Kandel, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, is one of the pioneers of modern brain science. His work continues to shape our understanding of how learning and memory wor A Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist’s probing investigation of what brain disorders can tell us about human nature Eric R. Kandel, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, is one of the pioneers of modern brain science. His work continues to shape our understanding of how learning and memory work and to break down age-old barriers between the sciences and the arts. In his seminal new book, The Disordered Mind, Kandel draws on a lifetime of pathbreaking research and the work of many other leading neuroscientists to take us on an unusual tour of the brain. He confronts one of the most difficult questions we face: How does our mind, our individual sense of self, emerge from the physical matter of the brain? The brain’s 86 billion neurons communicate with one another through very precise connections. But sometimes those connections are disrupted. The brain processes that give rise to our mind can become disordered, resulting in diseases such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While these disruptions bring great suffering, they can also reveal the mysteries of how the brain produces our most fundamental experiences and capabilities—the very nature of what it means to be human. Studies of autism illuminate the neurological foundations of our social instincts; research into depression offers important insights on emotions and the integrity of the self; and paradigm-shifting work on addiction has led to a new understanding of the relationship between pleasure and willpower. By studying disruptions to typical brain functioning and exploring their potential treatments, we will deepen our understanding of thought, feeling, behavior, memory, and creativity. Only then can we grapple with the big question of how billions of neurons generate consciousness itself.

30 review for The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us about Ourselves

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Fascinating brain stuff here. Eric is certainly an expert. Some things I've already heard, but a lot of new information also. I like how well he explains the inner workings of our mystery organ.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    THE DISORDERED MIND. (2018). Eric R. Kandel. ****. I found this work to be a fascinating review of our existing knowledge of the brain and how it works. The author is currently a professor at Columbia University and a renowned researcher in the field of neurology. He was previously a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. With a short introduction to his topic, he sets in to inform us of the current state of knowledge about the brain that has been learned through the study of vari THE DISORDERED MIND. (2018). Eric R. Kandel. ****. I found this work to be a fascinating review of our existing knowledge of the brain and how it works. The author is currently a professor at Columbia University and a renowned researcher in the field of neurology. He was previously a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. With a short introduction to his topic, he sets in to inform us of the current state of knowledge about the brain that has been learned through the study of various diseases. I was amazed that so much was known about these various illnesses and how they were manifested through the actions of their sufferers. Of particular interest was his chapters on special talents possessed by people with these various illnesses that seem to develop to compensate for their lack of skills in other more normal areas. The author tends to recap the information in each chapter and finish it off with a section on ‘where we are now’ and ‘where we need to go next.’ This is an excellent look at the hottest science of the day, told in a manner that can be understood by the average aware reader.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Received a review copy in exchange for my review. I wish I could leave a better one. The book is full of animal testing and psychiatric binaries of sick and well. It lacks an ethical framework in its treatment of humans and nonhuman animals necessary for the subject. There is some decent knowledge but not much that is new. I would not recommend this book to the layman or to someone with a background in psychology or neuroscience.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Disordered Mind by Eric R. Kandel is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early August. You get the impression that, throughout this book, disorder is abnormal or there’s a baseline that everyone operates on and that there’s a select amount of people that are 'defective' with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, dementia, PTSD, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and autism. Amid these conceptions, Kandel goes into neurological and cognitive findings, treatments, and patient disclosures, after telling The Disordered Mind by Eric R. Kandel is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early August. You get the impression that, throughout this book, disorder is abnormal or there’s a baseline that everyone operates on and that there’s a select amount of people that are 'defective' with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, dementia, PTSD, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and autism. Amid these conceptions, Kandel goes into neurological and cognitive findings, treatments, and patient disclosures, after telling of the origins/history of the aforementioned conditions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ania Holubecki

    Good book for an overview, especially for those not in the field! Appreciated how Kandel would redefine concepts and terms as they came up instead of forcing readers to remember them from before. Also liked how the chapters were organized by processes that make up our mind, paired with disorders that result from abnormalities in those processes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Corvus

    Goodreads removed my review which was the top rated review on this page. The reason was that I called attention to the animal abuse in the book and that which is conducted by Kandel. I even took the time to also gather and offer outside sources to back up what I was saying including Kandel's own publications where he causes pain and fear in mammals for his research interests. I will state again that I received this via goodreads give aways and twice now, the people most invested in defending the Goodreads removed my review which was the top rated review on this page. The reason was that I called attention to the animal abuse in the book and that which is conducted by Kandel. I even took the time to also gather and offer outside sources to back up what I was saying including Kandel's own publications where he causes pain and fear in mammals for his research interests. I will state again that I received this via goodreads give aways and twice now, the people most invested in defending the abuse of animals have flagged them for removal. I used to work in neuroscience myself but apparently, owning the book, reading the book, doing research on the author, having a degree in and working in the field, were all not enough in order for my review to be kept up. The animal testing machine is quite powerful, isn't it? Plenty of people found my review helpful. But, now it's no wonder that Kandel's books all have high stars despite many criticisms from many people.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melise

    I read an ARC from NetGalley and Farrah, Straus And Giroux. Thanks! I am always interested in reading about the intersection of brain physiology and psychology/behavior. This book was a great overview of some of the most recent discoveries that shed light on physiological findings within the brains of people who have a number of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia or Huntington’s, who suffer from depression or anxiety, or who experience life in non-neurotypical ways, includi I read an ARC from NetGalley and Farrah, Straus And Giroux. Thanks! I am always interested in reading about the intersection of brain physiology and psychology/behavior. This book was a great overview of some of the most recent discoveries that shed light on physiological findings within the brains of people who have a number of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia or Huntington’s, who suffer from depression or anxiety, or who experience life in non-neurotypical ways, including people with autism or gender nonconformity. The author did a good job of clearly explaining these complex scientific issues for a lay reader and I, like the author find it very interesting how seemingly unrelated symptoms can be caused by similar physiological changes in the brain, such as the role that synaptic pruning plays in both schizophrenia and autism. The one element that seemed to be missing for me, however, was a stronger synthesis and suggestions about where these findings might lead in the future. There was a bit of this in the conclusion, but I would have liked to have read more. All in all, a good overview that helped me understand current discoveries in brain functioning.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I found this book very disappointing. There wasn't a lot that was new. The subtitle, "What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves," makes a promise that is unfulfilled. He never says what disorders like Alzheimer's, addiction, autism, schizophrenia, etc. tell us about normal brains (except that they don't have these disorders). He has little to say about consciousness, and how it relates to brain activity, except to say that it's a mystery. When he discusses addiction, he mixes science with norm I found this book very disappointing. There wasn't a lot that was new. The subtitle, "What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves," makes a promise that is unfulfilled. He never says what disorders like Alzheimer's, addiction, autism, schizophrenia, etc. tell us about normal brains (except that they don't have these disorders). He has little to say about consciousness, and how it relates to brain activity, except to say that it's a mystery. When he discusses addiction, he mixes science with normative claims (like how important it is not to stigmatize addicts as weak-willed). He thinks we know that addiction is a disease because the brain scans of addicts are different from non-addicts. Has anyone scanned the brains of weak-willed persons? Maybe their brains are different too. Kandel is no Oliver Sacks.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I won this book on Goodreads. This book is fascinating, the topics include Alzheimer's, gender identity, Parkinson's, PTSD, bipolar, schizophrenia, autism and several other disorders. It may not be of interest to all readers but those who may find it interesting are readers who are curious about medicine, psychology, and science. I am involved in those fields so the studies interest me a great deal. This book covers genes and chromosomes which show how some of the same genes (duplication or dele I won this book on Goodreads. This book is fascinating, the topics include Alzheimer's, gender identity, Parkinson's, PTSD, bipolar, schizophrenia, autism and several other disorders. It may not be of interest to all readers but those who may find it interesting are readers who are curious about medicine, psychology, and science. I am involved in those fields so the studies interest me a great deal. This book covers genes and chromosomes which show how some of the same genes (duplication or deletion, mutations) causes certain risks for disorders. A worthwhile read and the book is of high quality.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This book does not pretend to be a comprehensive treatise on brain disorders. It is more like a multi-course tasting menu of interesting topics in cognitive neuroscience and should be savored as such.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    This would be a really good text for someone who has some basic working knowledge about the brain/mind connection or the "new biology of the mind" as Kandel refers to it. I clearly have read far more about this topic than I realized when I picked this up, because I was familiar with much of the content of this book, including many of the specific case studies he cites, so there were chapters I blazed through because of familiarity. Reading this did remind me how resistant I am to the argument th This would be a really good text for someone who has some basic working knowledge about the brain/mind connection or the "new biology of the mind" as Kandel refers to it. I clearly have read far more about this topic than I realized when I picked this up, because I was familiar with much of the content of this book, including many of the specific case studies he cites, so there were chapters I blazed through because of familiarity. Reading this did remind me how resistant I am to the argument that the mind is purely a biological function, because when Kandel would press hard in that direction, I would find my inner skeptic rising; however, he would then acknowledge that we don't fully understand the impact of environment on shaping what we call the mind, so the inner skeptic would then calm itself. He cites many philosophers and scientists that I respect, some of which he praises for getting it right before technology could back up those claims (way to go, William James!), but he also pretty much dismisses some as straight up "getting it wrong" (I'm looking at you, Decartes). I'm a both/and kind of thinker, so while I like some of the empirical evidence he provides, it didn't resolve any questions I had. I also caught some pruning of evidence to support his claim about biology and morality when he is discussing the trolley problem as it relates to Joshua Greene's research (yes, psychopaths have no problem pushing the fat man, but neither do Buddhist monks, which Kandel neglects to mention and it feels a bit deliberate in terms of positively positioning the claim being made). All that said, I would say a good primer for an overview on the topic written by a guy who has been a pioneer in the field (Nobel Prize Winner in 2000).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hom Sack

    As much as I enjoyed his previous book, I like this one even more. Not only is it informative, but it is also clearly written and a delight to read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Not being a scientist, I struggled to read this book. I'd like to find a discussion group and read it again with chapter by chapter input from others. Kandel, a brilliant neuroscientist, brings readers up to date on what is known about neuroscience, the brain, and ultimately our minds - to date. The knowledge gained in the last 20 years is phenomenal. I won't attempt to write a review here but instead refer readers to Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Disordered-Min...) or reviews in the NY Times o Not being a scientist, I struggled to read this book. I'd like to find a discussion group and read it again with chapter by chapter input from others. Kandel, a brilliant neuroscientist, brings readers up to date on what is known about neuroscience, the brain, and ultimately our minds - to date. The knowledge gained in the last 20 years is phenomenal. I won't attempt to write a review here but instead refer readers to Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Disordered-Min...) or reviews in the NY Times or Washington Post. But as a layperson, I will say that this book has given me respect for the balance of body & mind. And knowing persons who suffer from some of the diseases discussed, I am deeply appreciative of knowledge shared by Dr. Kandel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sue Wakula

    Thoroughly researched, this book explains the biology, chemistry and physiology of the brain and its effects on the self: our reactions, addictions, desires, instincts, emotions and unconscious behaviors. It reads like a textbook in many parts and delves into brain chemistry but sheds light on what's really going on in our brains when we may perhaps feel, like we have no control over our thoughts or actions. There is a chapter for everyone ranging from addictions, bipolar disorder and other brain Thoroughly researched, this book explains the biology, chemistry and physiology of the brain and its effects on the self: our reactions, addictions, desires, instincts, emotions and unconscious behaviors. It reads like a textbook in many parts and delves into brain chemistry but sheds light on what's really going on in our brains when we may perhaps feel, like we have no control over our thoughts or actions. There is a chapter for everyone ranging from addictions, bipolar disorder and other brain illnesses, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, extreme creativity, PTSD, and gender issues. If nothing else, this book may increase your empathy to the suffering of those around you--suffering that is a result of neural misfirings or a lack of or excess of a brain chemical and not a defect in character.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn Getts

    Outstanding. A clear overview of brain research up to the current day. A must read for anyone interested in the connection between the prescription of drugs and the use of psychotherapy in treating mental disorders and addiction. Kandel clear explains the difference between autism, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, and other conditions. There is a chapter on what comes into play when someone becomes addicted to opiates etc. It takes some time to read, but well worth the journ Outstanding. A clear overview of brain research up to the current day. A must read for anyone interested in the connection between the prescription of drugs and the use of psychotherapy in treating mental disorders and addiction. Kandel clear explains the difference between autism, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, and other conditions. There is a chapter on what comes into play when someone becomes addicted to opiates etc. It takes some time to read, but well worth the journey.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Johnson

    As with everything from Eric Kandel, well-written and insightful, a pleasure to read, and deserving of a close reread.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Every chapter introduced fascinating concepts about how the brain works, and made me want to read more. Explanations were brief but sufficient to get a good overview. Focusing on disorders or rare brain conditions makes sense because that’s how neuroscience has traditionally advanced. This book didn’t use any flashy rhetorical devices but was straightforward and easy to read. It rises above high quality textbook by taking several clear positions on issues, such as the best way to treat addiction Every chapter introduced fascinating concepts about how the brain works, and made me want to read more. Explanations were brief but sufficient to get a good overview. Focusing on disorders or rare brain conditions makes sense because that’s how neuroscience has traditionally advanced. This book didn’t use any flashy rhetorical devices but was straightforward and easy to read. It rises above high quality textbook by taking several clear positions on issues, such as the best way to treat addiction, based on the scientific evidence that has been presented. I found this a clear and enlightening introduction to neurobiology.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paula K.

    There's a lot to chew on, here.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    This is an informative book with insights into recent studies of the human brain. I'm not sure who the target audience is for this. It's not as accessible as Dr. Sacks' books, for example, and I think will require a background in biology or psychology at least. However, experts are likely to find it often vague and repetitive. There's not much effort to personalize the science with anecdotes or patient histories, which makes it somewhat slow-going and technical. It has some nice pictures and fig This is an informative book with insights into recent studies of the human brain. I'm not sure who the target audience is for this. It's not as accessible as Dr. Sacks' books, for example, and I think will require a background in biology or psychology at least. However, experts are likely to find it often vague and repetitive. There's not much effort to personalize the science with anecdotes or patient histories, which makes it somewhat slow-going and technical. It has some nice pictures and figures, and the construction is textbook-quality (the book is very heavy for its size).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Lee

    FASCINATING!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shera

    There was a combined chapter including anxiety along with PTS and faulty decision making, after all. Informative book but at times tedious.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Derek Davis

    Always like Kandel, from his textbooks to his personal revelations (the latter more so). As a rundown of the status of neuroscience today, this deserves a fifth star. He presents the material beautifully, so that even when technical terms (such as particular areas of the brain) are tossed in without full definition, the whole still carries you along with superb clarity. My only reservation is his stance that certain mechanisms of the brain have been firmly established, when, from what I've read e Always like Kandel, from his textbooks to his personal revelations (the latter more so). As a rundown of the status of neuroscience today, this deserves a fifth star. He presents the material beautifully, so that even when technical terms (such as particular areas of the brain) are tossed in without full definition, the whole still carries you along with superb clarity. My only reservation is his stance that certain mechanisms of the brain have been firmly established, when, from what I've read elsewhere, that's not necessarily the case. He's a staunch materialist (as am I), but I wonder if it doesn't make him want to believe that the neural and genetic foundations of the conditions he describes, such as Alzheimer’s, are solidly established and incontrovertible (are amyloid beta deposits definitely a cause of Alzheimer’s or a result or an association?). But it's as good an up-to-date look at the state of neurophysics in the brain as you'll find anywhere. I gained a lot of new insights (for instance, that my cat has likely damage to the lateral nucleus of his amygdala – and here I thought he was just nuts).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Good overview of current understanding of the brain and its disorders. Key points for me: emotion is not an obstacle but the key to healthy decisionmaking; nicotine is a gateway drug in how it primes brain for addiction (not marijuana!), and sexual differentiation of genitalia happens during early pregnancy while sexual differences of brain emerge in the later half, meaning that a disconnect could happen during that time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Xavier Morales

    Being an Industrial-Organizational Psychology student, I was familiar with the content Kandell presents here, but not entirely savvy of the intricacies of mental disorder. I was mostly interested in the decision making portions of the book. In general, I think this book is a good overview of the topics it covers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    One of the best psychology books I have ever read. It goes into great detail about each disorder and how each disorder affects the person's life. It is a well-written book and it's not surprising when you learn the author wrote a Nobel peace prize. It really shows in his writing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Abe

    Thought this was a great update for someone who has not kept abreast of the research. Wondered why he did not mention the current neurobiological research on learned helplessness. Clearly relevant to depression. Wonder how selective he is being about the research he cites.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Authentikate

    A clinical review of recent research and scientific data. Very well researched and referenced. Perhaps not the most lay person friendly but it attempted to be widely assessable. Thanks to NetGalley and publisher for ARC in exchange for review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andy Adkins

    For most of his book, Kandel seamlessly & coherently details complex mental phenomena without pandering to in fashion sentiment trapping by cornerstores.

  29. 4 out of 5

    William

    Easy access to the latest discoveries in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and other diseases of the mind rising from badly folded proteins in the neurons.

  30. 4 out of 5

    P A Adamson

    A good read. Nice level of technical detail. Very interesting.

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