Cover image for Altered egos : how the brain creates the self
Altered egos : how the brain creates the self
Feinberg, Todd E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
viii, 205 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1280 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QP360 .F45 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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It may be the deepest mystery of philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience: how does the brain unite to create the self, the subjective "I"? In Altered Egos, Dr. Todd Feinberg presents a new theory of the self, based on his first-hand experience as both a psychiatrist and neurologist. Feinberg first introduces the reader to dozens of intriguing cases of patients whose disorders have resulted in what he calls "altered egos": a change in the brain that transforms the boundaries of the self. He describes patients who suffer from "alien hand syndrome" where one hand might attackthe patient's own throat, patients with frontal lobe damage who invent fantastic stories about their lives, paralyzed patients who reject and disown one of their limbs. Feinberg argues that the brain damage suffered by these people has done more than simply impair certain functions--it hasfragmented their sense of self. After illustrating how these patients provide a window into the self and the mind, the author presents a new model of the self that links the workings of the brain with unique and personal features of the mind, such as meaning, purpose, and being. Drawing on his ownand other evidence, Feinberg explains how the unified self, while not located in one or another brain region, arises out of the staggering complexity and number of the brain's component parts. Lucid, insightful, filled with fascinating case studies and provocative new ideas, Altered Egos promises to change the way we think about human consciousness and the creation and maintenance of human identity.

Author Notes

Todd E. Feinberg, M.D. is Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Chief of the Betty and Morton Yarmon Division of Neurobehavior and Alzheimer's Disease at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Feinberg is a neurologist whose treatment of patients with bizarre mental illnesses has led him to ponder that sense of mental unity we call experience. As brain research has progressed, that sense has remained stubbornly resistant to explication; indeed, it has grown more mysterious even as the anatomy of the living brain has become well understood. Feinberg frequently iterates this paradox before propounding his answer to it; before then, he recounts patients who exhibited, following an injury to their brains, a drastic degradation in self-awareness. Previously ordinary people can no longer recognize themselves in mirrors; believe that their limbs belong to somebody else; and, if blinded, insist their vision is 20/20. To Feinberg, these symptoms reinforce his impression of the self's malleability and initiate his argument, with references to Descartes, about how the brain shapes the self. He offers, after refuting notions that the organ has a locus for the self as it does for vision, a version of the self-as-emergent-phenomenon idea. Avoiding undue technical jargon, Feinberg's presentation ably elucidates for general readers the material/ethereal nexus of self-perception. --Gilbert Taylor

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Chapter 1 Introduction: Soul Searchingp. 1
Dissecting the Selfp. 1
The Patientsp. 1
Johnp. 2
The Perplexing "Inner I"p. 4
Chapter 2 Deconstructing the Selfp. 8
Asomatognosiap. 8
Mirnap. 8
Sonyap. 14
Personification of the Limbp. 15
Shirleyp. 18
Anosognosiap. 21
Jackp. 21
Patsyp. 24
Darylp. 26
Explaining Asomatognosiap. 27
Lizzyp. 28
Chapter 3 Missing Pieces; Familiar Placesp. 30
The Margins of the Egop. 30
Capgras Syndromep. 32
Emmap. 34
Louisep. 35
Oliverp. 37
Mariannep. 38
The Family Romancep. 38
Fregoli Syndromep. 41
Fanniep. 43
Bartp. 44
JPp. 44
Environmental Reduplicationp. 47
The Capgras-Fregoli Dichotomyp. 49
Disorders of Personal Relatedness and the Anatomy of the Selfp. 51
Chapter 4 Mything Personsp. 55
What Is Confabulation?p. 55
Lindap. 56
Personal Confabulationp. 58
Sick Williep. 59
Samp. 60
Lindap. 63
Walterp. 65
Explaining Personal Confabulationp. 67
Personal Confabulation and the Anatomy of the Selfp. 68
Chapter 5 Auto-Bodiesp. 72
Mirror Misidentificationp. 72
Susanp. 73
Rosamondp. 75
The Self as Known and Knowerp. 78
Double Indemnityp. 80
Autoscopiap. 80
The Vision of the Self and the Soulp. 83
Imaginary Companions and Guardian Angelsp. 84
Florencep. 88
Chapter 6 Keeping It All Togetherp. 90
Splitting the Brainp. 90
The Alien Hand syndromep. 93
Steviep. 95
The Self Finds a Way to Remain Wholep. 99
Soniap. 103
Seymourp. 104
Chapter 7 Journey to the Center of the Mindp. 106
How Does A Distributed Brain Create a Unified Self?p. 106
Descartes' Dilemmap. 107
Sherrington Ponders the Mind's Eyep. 109
Mental Unity and the Visual Systemp. 112
The Cartesian Theater and the Binding Problemp. 114
The Ghost in the Machinep. 117
Chapter 8 The Nested Hierarchy of the Self and Mindp. 121
Emergence and the Brainp. 121
Roger Sperry Argues for the Emergence of an Immaterial Mindp. 125
Non-Nested and Nested Hierarchiesp. 127
The Nested Hierarchy of the Brainp. 129
Meaning and the "Inner I"p. 131
Purpose Is the "Ghost in the Machine"p. 132
Chapter 9 Being and Brainp. 139
The Subjective and Objective Points of Viewp. 139
The Neurological Basis of Meaningp. 141
Meaning, Qualia, and the Mind-Body Problemp. 144
The Brain Is Not About Itselfp. 147
Chapter 10 The Living Mindp. 149
The What, Where, and How of the Selfp. 149
Beings and Brainsp. 150
Notesp. 153
Glossaryp. 167
Bibliographyp. 179
Indexp. 193