Reviews elsewhere on the web:
january magazine
Fred Bortz
Shelly Marshall

John Ratey

A User's Guide to the Brain

Since the brain is the seat of thought, it's easy to believe that we know what's going on in there. Reading A User's Guide to the Brain by John Ratey, however, shows that there's more to thinking than you may think.

Ratey sees the operation of the brain as having four 'theatres', starting with perception and then attention and consciousness. The third theatre is brain function, such as memory. emotion and language as well as social abilities, and the fourth is our sense of identity. The structure of the book reflects this ordering, with short a chapter at the end on how to get the best from your brain.

Ratey is keen to emphasise the importance of what might be thought of as 'lower' brain functions, explaining how some of his patients, who have been previously diagnosed with dubious Freudian phobias, have turned out to actually suffer from problems with basic perception. He also explains how movement isn't just a case of activating our muscles but gets to be involved in many aspects of thinking.

It's a fairly long book, but it's certainly worth the effort of reading it. Ratey includes plenty of real life case studies, resulting in a book which is highly informative but still accessible to a wide readership. info
Paperback 416 pages  
ISBN: 0375701079
Salesrank: 256382
Published: 2002 Vintage
Amazon price $15.26
Marketplace:New from $5.99:Used from $0.10
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Paperback 416 pages  
ISBN: 0349112967
Salesrank: 131097
Weight:0.62 lbs
Published: 2003 Abacus
Amazon price £11.99
Marketplace:New from £8.02:Used from £5.25
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Paperback 416 pages  
ISBN: 0375701079
Salesrank: 199156
Weight:0.8 lbs
Published: 2002 Vintage
Amazon price CDN$ 18.64
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 17.60:Used from CDN$ 2.14
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Product Description
John Ratey, bestselling author and clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, lucidly explains the human brain’s workings, and paves the way for a better understanding of how the brain affects who we are. Ratey provides insight into the basic structure and chemistry of the brain, and demonstrates how its systems shape our perceptions, emotions, and behavior. By giving us a greater understanding of how the brain responds to the guidance of its user, he provides us with knowledge that can enable us to improve our lives.

In A User’s Guide to the Brain, Ratey clearly and succinctly surveys what scientists now know about the brain and how we use it. He looks at the brain as a malleable organ capable of improvement and change, like any muscle, and examines the way specific motor functions might be applied to overcome neural disorders ranging from everyday shyness to autism. Drawing on examples from his practice and from everyday life, Ratey illustrates that the most important lesson we can learn about our brains is how to use them to their maximum potential.