Since Descartes famously proclaimed, I think, therefore I am, science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person's true being. Even modern neuroscience has tended, until recently, to concentrate on the cognitive aspects of brain function, disregarding emotions. This attitude began to change with the publication of Descartes' Error in 1995. Antonio Damasio one of the world's leading neurologists (The New York Times)challenged traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this wondrously engaging book, Damasio takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior.
Author Biography: Antonio Damasio is the Van Allen Distinguished Professor and head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa's Medical Center and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The recipient of numerous awards, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also the author of two other widely acclaimed books, The Felling of What Happens and Looking for Spinoza.
In an important, gracefully written exploration of the neurochemical basis of mind, neurologist Damasio rejects the Cartesian notion of the human mind as a thinking organ more or less separate from bodily processes. Emotions and feelings, he argues, are essential to reasoning and decision-making. The human brain, he further contends, has a specialized region in the frontal lobes for making personal and social decisions, and this region works in concert with deeper brain centers that store emotional memories. To support this controversial claim, Damasio draws on his work with brain-injured patients at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, and also cites the case of Phineas Gage, a Vermont railway foreman who lost his ethical faculties after an explosion in 1848 drove a metal rod through his skull. Damasio's exciting investigation challenges the fashionable metaphor of the mind as a software program. Interested readers are also referred to Richard Restak's The Modular Brain (Nonfiction Forecasts, June 13). Illustrations. 50,000 first printing; QPB alternate; Library of Science selection. (Sept.)