Connections

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What to expect

In this riveting journey through the hidden realms of the human mind, a world-renowned psychiatrist and neuroscientist explores the origins of human emotion, and examines what mental illnesses reveal about all of us – how the broken can illuminate the unbroken.

Why do we feel what we feel?

Mental illness is one of the greatest causes of human suffering, but the reasons we bear this burden, and the nature of these diseases, have remained mysterious. Now, our understanding has reached a tipping point. In Connections, Professor Karl Deisseroth intertwines gripping case studies from his experience as an emergency psychiatry physician, with breakthrough scientific discoveries from astounding new technology (including optogenetics, which he developed to allow turning specific brain cells on or off, with light).

By linking insights from this technology to deeply moving stories of his patients and to our shared evolutionary history, Deisseroth tells a larger story about the origins of human emotion. A young woman with an eating disorder reveals how the mind can rebel against the brain’s most primitive drives of hunger and thirst; an older man, smothered into silence by dementia, shows how humans evolved to feel joy and its absence; and a lonely Uyghur woman far from her homeland teaches both the importance – and challenges – of deep social bonds.

Addressing some of the most timeless questions about the human condition while illuminating the roots of misunderstood disorders such as depression, psychosis, schizophrenia and sociopathy, Connections transforms the way we understand the brain, and our selves.

Critics Review

  • ‘I find myself at a loss for how to describe this remarkable work. Just as Karl has, through his laboratory, reimagined, and literally redefined how we view the human brain, he has reimagined and redefined what literary non-fiction can be, with great elegance. For all of us who write about science for the public, this will be a tough act to follow. It’s poetic, mind-stretching, and through it all, deeply human’

    Daniel Levitin
  • ‘Revelatory … it recalls the case histories of Oliver Sacks, at times the sweep of Yuval Harari’s Sapiens. He writes with an evident love of words – but also, with a lucid line of scientific enquiry’

    Guardian
  • ‘There are some books that you read and forget. There are others that you read and think about occasionally. Then there are rare gems like Connections that you read, read again and find that the way you think has been irreversibly changed. Incredibly powerful’

    Sue Black, author of All That Remains
  • ‘Karl Deisseroth is a master storyteller. Armed with an abundance of compassion and curiosity, he takes us on a spellbinding tour of the mysteries of the human mind through a series of fascinating case studies. His graceful prose weaves a tapestry of complex ideas into memorable stories, each illuminated by cutting-edge science. A delight from the opening paragraph to the stunning conclusion, this book is an invitation to reverence for the complexity of the human brain and its relationship to the mind: a ticket to a state of wonder at the essence of our selves’

    Kathryn Mannix, author of With the End in Mind
  • ‘Deisseroth is a talented writer … It is in his encounters with distressed patients that his talent for marrying science and the imagination becomes most apparent and that his writing comes truly alive. Connections warrants comparison with books such as Do No Harm by Henry Marsh and Brainstorm by Suzanne Sullivan . . . Deisseroth achieves the difficult feat of moving and enlightening the reader at the same time … [this is] a book that is beautiful to read and packed with cutting edge science’

    Observer
  • This hybrid memoir, by an emergency-room psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and bioengineering, probes the evolutionary origins of human emotions’

    New Yorker

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