Connections

Connections

A Story of Human Feeling

Summary

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.

'Remarkable ... he has reimagined and redefined what literary non-fiction can be ... 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

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.

Reviews

  • '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

About the author

Karl Deisseroth

Karl Deisseroth is the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University. He is known for creating and developing optogenetics and hydrogel-tissue chemistry - advanced technologies for studying the function of the brain intact, allowing complex emotions to be studied at the level of individual cells. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering, Deisseroth has received numerous prizes for his discoveries, including the Kyoto Prize, the Breakthrough Prize, and most recently the 2020 Heineken Prize in Medicine. This is his first trade book.
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