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The central paradox with which it grapples is that in neurology the very means a patient uses to explain himself — ie his brain — is often impaired, and so unreliable.

A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease

Yet this unreliability is itself a window into another reality, the distorted Alice in Wonderland world to which the title refers and in which neurological patients are wont to find themselves tormentingly trapped. There are any number of ways the brain can go wrong and Ropper seems to have encountered them all: meningitis, subarachnoid haemorrhage, embolism, tumours, gliomas, seizures and hemiplegias.


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And of course the many catastrophes that hide behind that banal term: a stroke. According to Ropper, the Scandinavians have the lowest rates of stroke in the world, while the healthy Japanese, of all people, have the highest. Because the fear it plays on, consciously or not, is the sudden and cruel inversion of normality. What makes diagnosis particularly challenging is that, being the neurotic individuals we are, sometimes the problem is psychological not neurological.

The mind can persuade the brain to suffer everything from paralysis to blindness.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain…

But where ultimately do these journeys lead? What lies at the other end of the rabbit hole except the uncomfortable knowledge that who we are and all that we hold certain is precariously contingent?

One rogue strip of blood vessel, torn off, perhaps, during a robust neck massage, could impede the flow of blood to the brain and wreak devastating damage on the mass of neurons that govern our lives. But not for too long. Topics Health, mind and body books The Observer.

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Order by newest oldest recommendations. Ropper and Brian David Burrell take the reader behind the scenes at Harvard Medical School's neurology unit to show how a seasoned diagnostician faces down bizarre, life-altering afflictions.

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Like Alice in Wonderland , Dr. Ropper inhabits a world where absurdities abound:.

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How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? How does one train the next generation of clinicians to deal with the moral and medical aspects of brain disease? Ropper and his colleague answer these questions by taking the reader into a rarified world where lives and minds hang in the balance. A renowned neurologist examines some important questions: "[W]hat does it mean to be the patient faced with these seismic problems, and how is a connection made with the physician who embodies the


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