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Stroke victims who think their limbs belong to someone else. Alzheimer's sufferers who believe their wives have been swapped. Blood clot victims convinced all their possessions have been replaced with inferior products. These are the kind of frightening yet fascinating cases encountered by American neurologist Todd Feinberg in a lifetime's work in Manhattan's top hospitals: cases he has now used, like Oliver Sacks, to explore his concept of individual "selfness", how the brain perceives itself and the body as an organic whole.
The first few chapters are full of case histories like the above: bizarre, macabre, intriguing. With these building blocks Feinberg coolly and persuasively constructs his thesis: that our sense of ourselves is a fragile thing dependent on mental and physical health, and yet is flexible enough to absorb and adapt to catastrophic changes in circumstance. Along the way Feinberg cites Descartes alongside Doctor Strangelove, the Wizard of Oz next to Immanuel Kant, in a style that is personable, humane, concerned and very readable. In the end this is a kind of testament, by a man at the coal face of the human condition, to the strange and extraordinary uniqueness of homosapiens. --Sean Thomas [via]