The Body Has a Mind of Its Own

by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee



• A review in the journal Nature
    [This book presents] some of the most exciting discoveries in neuroscience. The unifying theme is the idea that the way our body is mapped by neural circuits in the brain can account for a range of our experiences and perceptions. Using a readable and inspiring format, the authors showcase new and classic research on neural representations, without compromising accuracy...
    Anecdotes and ideas from sister disciplines, including neurology, psychiatry and cultural anthropology, mix comfortably with laboratory observations. New discoveries titillate our curiosity, explaining common phenomena such as yo-yo dieting and contagious yawning as well as some more bizarre neurological abnormalities such as alien-hand syndrome and supernumerary-limb perception. Also covered are why you cannot tickle yourself, why some people have ‘out-of-body’ experiences, and why babies in Mali walk earlier than those anywhere else in the world...
    The Body has a Mind of its Own is a thought-provoking book of wide appeal. It is a striking example of how  complex issues in contemporary research can be presented to entertain everyone.

(Note: Nature's content is only available to subscribers.)

• A review in the journal Nature Neuroscience
    The brain contains multiple maps of the body, the coordinate systems of which vary according to whether the map is to be used to move our heads, shift our gaze, reach out and shake someone's hand, throw a stick, experience emotion, play golf, drive a car or play a video game. For almost everything we do, we have to map the external world and our experiences into one atlas, or as the authors explain, something more like a scrapbook in which pages and scraps can be removed, pasted, or even doodled on. The scrapbook is changing every day of your life...
    [The Blakeslees] write clearly and engagingly without needless dramatization, they choose great examples to illustrate the concepts they are describing, and they take time to explain why these things matter. The latter is something they do particularly well, giving detailed examples from the realms of aging, sports, learning, stroke recovery and anorexia. What these examples show is that the brain is training and retraining from childhood to old age and that our senses develop in the way they do because of what we do with our bodies. It’s a point that bears repetition. An animal born with normal eyes and a normal brain will grow up functionally blind if it is prevented from moving. Action trains our senses.

• A review blurb from New Scientist
    Etched in your brain are maps that correspond to your body and the space and objects around you. How these maps work and what happens when they go awry are the subjects of the Blakeslees' highly readable book.

• A review in Psychology Today
    Svelte figures moving as if they still carried pre-diet bulk; amputees who sense their missing arm is still intact. It's strange examples like these that show how our minds and bodies are not always on the same page—or map. The Blakeslees venture deep into the mysterious folds of the brain to reveal how its represen- tations of our physical selves aren't always accurate. Yet body maps do morph and can even incorporate clothing, vehicles, and video game characters on the fly, making them feel like your own flesh and blood. With captivating anecdotes and mind-bending tricks, this book shows how we often blur the boundaries between the corporal self, the mind, and the outside world.

• A review in the journal Neuron
    The authors have very skillfully managed to integrate many seemingly disparate but hot topics in cognitive neuroscience together into a volume that is dedicated to understanding how our brains allow our bodies to make sense of, and interact with, the external surroundings and indeed other people. This book is a must-read [not just for the general population but] for the neuroscientist also—there is currently nothing out there that manages to integrate the existing literature so well.
(Note: Neuron's content is only available to subscribers.)

• A review in the Washington Post
  (which rated it among the top five science books of 2007)
    The Body Has a Mind of Its Own [is a] captivating exploration of the brain's uncanny ability to map the world...
    [The authors] know the inner workings of both the scientific laboratory and the brain and wisely keep their heady subject matter anchored in those worlds. Readers will emerge with a far keener sense of where they are.

    As a biologist who reads both widely and deeply about a number of scientific topics, it is very rare when I read a popular book that adds depth and nuance to my understanding of a biological phenomenon, but [this] is that book...
    The Body Has a Mind of its Own is an engaging book that will be appreciated by anyone who has an interest in the brain and how it functions. Additionally, I think that sports fans, athletes, dancers and people who are working to readjust their altered body maps, such as anorexics, people who are working at losing weight and those who have suffered a stroke, will especially benefit from reading this book.

• A blog review in Breathe In, Breathe Out
    I've always wanted to know more about [body maps in the brain]. But not being academically inclined, material on the subject has been hard for me to find. Until now...
    The book is too rich with information about the maps to write about in one blog post. So let me spin a helicopter view here: What are body maps and how do they work?...
    I think the Blakeslee's book really fills a void for accessible information about this fascinating topic. Check it out.

• A blog review in Neurodudes
    This new book continues in the spirit of illustrating the broader significance of surprising findings in neuroscience. It covers a lot of recent neuroscience research, including mirror neurons, place cells and grid cells, the insular cortex and neuroprosthetics. For anyone looking to get the quick picture of these frontier research areas, this book serves as an excellent primer. It does an excellent job of making connections to socially relevant topics such as the secrets of athletic excellence, underlying causes of eating disorders and the modern obsession with plastic surgery.

• A blog review in Brains on Purpose
    [T]he Blakeslees describe research looking at the relationship between emotional intelligence and interoception, "your ability to read and interpret sensations arising from within your own body." Yes, there is a relationship...
    Emotional awareness, an important component of emotional intelligence, is a key factor in conflict resolution. The ability to stay aware of one's body and mind, to pay attention to our body and mind, is extremely helpful for both parties and professionals.

• A blog review in Deric Bownds' Mind Blog
    I enjoyed reading the book, and would highly recommend it. It crams an amazing amount of material into a small space. It is easy to read and engaging.

• A blog review in Human Antigravity Suit
    I will be reading the book not only as the owner-operator of an insula, but as a therapist who treats patients with persistent pain, who therefore deals with other peoples' insulae on a daily basis.
    The September edition of Scientific American Mind features an excerpted chapter that has definitely sharpened my appetite for the book...

• A blog review in The Frontal Cortex
    One of the great themes of modern neuroscience is that Descartes was utterly wrong... The mind and flesh are profoundly entangled, knotted together into a single homeostatic machine. This is the subject of an excellent new book, from Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee, The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.

• The book and the authors profiled in the Santa Fe New Mexican
    [T]he Blakeslees write, “These body-centered maps are profoundly plastic — capable of significant reorganization in response to damage, experience, or practice.”
    And this new understanding leads to a revelation: People aren’t as self-contained as they might think.
    “Your self doesn’t end where your skin ends. It travels to the end of a tool (such as a pair of snow skis) even into cyberspace,” Matthew Blakeslee said.
    Body maps can mingle, too. Consider a rider on a horse or a person stepping into another’s personal space. “Embrace a person, hold a child — (and) you feel it,” Sandra Blakeslee said.

• From among the earliest reader reviews at
    The Body Has a Mind of Its Own is a new book by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee, a mother-son partnership with a history of writing good science books and articles... The book is a fascinating summary of current research on how the brain and body interact, well-written and enjoyable... Highly recommended.

    This is an excellent book. The authors have a gift for making a complex subject understandable. Another plus is that, like the best of nonfiction authors, they stick to the subject and rely on facts rather than opinion. This book provides a wonderful introduction into an area of science formerly limited to neurologists and other highly-trained specialists.
    The central theme of this book is that the brain maps the body. In fact, different areas of the brain contain different kinds of body maps with different functions. These body maps in the brain determine such things as how you perceive reality and how you respond to that perception. One of the most fascinating aspects is the plasticity of these maps.
    For example, have you ever noticed that you can "feel" with the end of a tool? You put a wrench on a nut, and you suddenly have several important bits of information about that nut. This is because your body map extends to include the tool. And it's why mechanics can accurately work without actually seeing what their hands or tools are touching. Body maps extend from the rider to include the horse and from the horse to include the rider. Lovers share body maps, and the book explores what goes on there also.
    This book explores the effects of dysfunctional body maps, too...


                                Click here to order the book online © 2007 Sandra Blakeslee & Matthew Blakeslee

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