Neurologist V.S. Ramachandran looks deep into the brain’s most basic mechanisms. By working with those who have very specific mental disabilities caused by brain injury or stroke, he can map functions of the mind to physical structures of the brain.

Why you should listen

V.S. Ramachandran is a mesmerizing speaker, able to concretely and simply describe the most complicated inner workings of the brain. His investigations into phantom limb pain, synesthesia and other brain disorders allow him to explore (and begin to answer) the most basic philosophical questions about the nature of self and human consciousness.

Ramachandran is the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. He is the author of Phantoms in the Brain (the basis for a Nova special), A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness and The Man with the Phantom Twin: Adventures in the Neuroscience of the Human Brain.

What others say

“Ramachandran is a latter-day Marco Polo, journeying the silk road of science to strange and exotic Cathays of the mind. He returns laden with phenomenological treasures...which, in his subtle and expert telling, yield more satisfying riches of scientific understanding.” — Richard Dawkins

Vilayanur Ramachandran’s TED talks

Vilayanur Ramachandran on the TED Blog
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The neurons that shaped civilization: VS Ramachandran on TED.com

January 4, 2010

Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it. (Recorded at TEDIndia, November 2009, Mysore, India. Duration: 7:44) Watch Vilayanur Ramachandran’s talk on TED.com, where you can download this […]

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The brain and the banjo

October 14, 2008

Bluegrass legend Eddie Adcock had brain surgery last month to correct an essential tremor — an uncontrollable shaking that left him unable to play the banjo. During the surgery, he stayed awake to give feedback while surgeons prodded his brain, looking for the exact spot to stimulate to control the tremor. His method of feedback […]

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Synesthesia on demand

June 13, 2008

Many of us have a touch of synesthesia — seeing numbers or hearing musical tones as colors, thanks to a lucky bit of crossed wiring in the brain. Many commenters on Vilayanur Ramachandran’s TEDTalk talk engagingly about their experience with it. Want to know what it feels like? Try this: a synesthesia generator >>. It’s […]

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Quotes from Vilayanur Ramachandran

Here is this three-pound mass of jelly you can hold in the palm of your hand, and it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space. It can contemplate the meaning of infinity and it can contemplate itself contemplating on the meaning of infinity.
Vilayanur Ramachandran
TED2007 • 3M views Oct 2007
Fascinating, Informative
Think about what artists, novelists and poets have in common: the ability to engage in metaphorical thinking, linking seemingly unrelated ideas, such as, ‘It is the east, and Juliet is the Sun.’
Vilayanur Ramachandran
TED2007 • 3M views Oct 2007
Fascinating, Informative
There are 100 billion neurons in the adult human brain, and each neuron makes something like 1,000 to 10,000 contacts with other neurons in the brain. Based on this, people have calculated that the number of permutations and combinations of brain activity exceeds the number of elementary particles in the universe.
Vilayanur Ramachandran
TEDIndia 2009 • 1.6M views Jan 2010
Fascinating, Informative