I read this book a while back and it was fantastic. Despite the aesthetically pleasing cover, the actual thesis is one that is fascinating: how does a neuroscientist case studies reflect on the patients and the person studying them? In the book, Broks recounts his thoughts and ideas about his patients, speaking directly from personal experiences most of the time and being surprisingly candid about his thoughts. The patients, by contrast, are accounted for and Broks makes no attempt to overlook them. I recall one case in particular where Broks mentions a woman whom he is treating experience a loss of emotional function (I can’t remember what exactly it was, whether it was anger or fear) in the limbic system and in particular the amygdala. Since the women did was missing her amygdala, Broks reasons, she isn’t able to comprehend situations of fear and anger and thereby she instead responds with laughter. Broks contends that this is a typical response for people who receive damage to the limbic centers–they instead respond with the a suplementary emotion that the brain can only adequately utilize. That said, the book continues from here with Broks talking about other cases with similar dilemmas from patients with brain damage. He details each patient individually as to not simply omit who they really are and qualify their identity in some way. In fact, the patients are often times so detailed that the book diverges from Broks own reflections.
At the end of the day, Broks makes Into the Silent Land a brilliant read. When a person reads someone like Broks, who takes a different approach to his field, it is a personal attachment to his words. Personally, I felt drawn to his ideas and thoughts. His insights, both philosophical and poetic, add aesthetic appeal that is unlike other books. I would highly recommend this book for any level reader. It has highly unique and I would consider it a gem in neuroscience.
Oh and by the way, the title is tied in with Broks work later in the book. I’ll leave it up to you to read on and decide what the title in fact means.