Broks, Paul 1955(?)-
Broks, Paul 1955(?)-
Born c. 1955, in Wolverhampton, England; married. Education: University of Sheffield, B.A.; Oxford University, D.Phil.
Office—Department of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, England E-mail—[email protected]
University of Plymouth, Plymouth, Devon, England, senior clinical lecturer, 2000—. Has also worked as research scientist for Merck, Sharp & Dohme, and as clinical neuropsychologist at St. James' University Hospital, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, and Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust. Former professor of psychology, University of Birmingham and University of Sheffield.
Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to books, including Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, edited by J. Shields and others, 1996; and Schizotypy: Implications forHealth and Fitness, edited by G.S. Claridge. Contributor of scientific papers to periodicals, including NeuroReport, Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychologia, and Behavioural Neurology.
Paul Broks's work as a clinical neuropsychologist takes him into the realms of cognition, behavior, and personality that are sometimes identified as "the self" or "the soul." Broks studies the changes in behavior—many of them completely life-altering—that can come from injuries to the brain, epilepsy, autism, and tumors. Most of his writing on the subject is scientific in nature, but almost on a whim he decided to write a popular-science book for a contest in the United Kingdom. He did not win the contest, but his book, Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology, has been published to warm reviews in England and America.
Into the Silent Land uses case histories from Broks's practice as well as his own vivid dreams and unconventional daydreams to offer a glimpse into what is and isn't known about how brain function translates into human "being." In an interview with the Guardian, Broks said the book is about "how personal identity is fragile, and how at one level we're basically meat and at another level we're basically fiction—human beings are storytelling machines, and the self is a story, and we tell a story about ourselves, and we just pick up on the story."
Patients in Into the Silent Land include a man who suddenly leaves his family and adopts a bohemian lifestyle, is later diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor, and when the tumor is removed he wants to return to his old life with his thoroughly alienated family. Another patient believes she is dead; still another loses several decades of memory but retains her essential sense of self. As he faces these conundrums, Broks muses on the "mind-body" problem and how the brain produces conscious awareness. As Simon Hattenstone observed in the Guardian, "There is something of the bewildered innocent in the narrator—a wide-eyed Gulliver travelling through the alien land of the mind."
In a Boston.com review of Into the Silent Land, Beth Greenberg noted that the book "would provide the remarkable and rare combination of a fascinating science book that qualifies as beach reading. … Broks is a gifted writer who tries to address, if not answer, … questions. His prose is clear, his language concise." Guardian reviewer John McCrone wrote: "What troubles Broks is that despite all his professional training, these two ways of looking at a person never quite gel. The objective biological facts about the brain and the subjective fact of being also an experiencer never fit the same reference frame. His genius is to write a book that explores this dilemma in an engagingly personal, poetic and truthful way." A Kirkus Reviews critic deemed the work a "tour de force" and declared that Broks "writes like an impressionist painter, splashing his canvas with vivid colors that capture a moment with emotional force and mystery."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Daily Telegraph (London, England), October 29, 2003, Paul Broks, "What Does It Mean to Be Me?," p. 18.
Financial Times Weekend Magazine, November 29, 2003, Stephen Pincock, "The Books That Matter," p. 46.
Guardian, June 10, 2003, Simon Hattenstone, "Real Lives: A Beautiful Mind," p. 6; June 14, 2003, John McCrone, "Mind Games."
Independent on Sunday, June 15, 2003, Matthew J. Reisz, "What Is the Precise Link between the Flesh and Blood and Bone inside Our Heads and Our Rich Inner Life?," p. 16.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology, p. 580.
Boston.com, http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2003/09/02/ (September 2, 2003), Beth Greenberg, "Into the Silent Land Speaks Loudly about Our Psyche."