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By Carl Zimmer

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Mary Roach, author of Packing for Mars and Stiff “If you want to jump start your knowledge about how the brain does all those marvelous things for us like think, feel, and deal with others, read these essays. ” —Michael Gazzaniga, Director for the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara, author of Human: The Science of What Makes Us Unique “These essays combine that rare blend of precision and wonder, hard-nosed reporting and nose for the poetically spooky.

Of Ether and Consciousness I was looking forward to my first experience with anesthesia. I had been laid out on a stretcher, and nurses and doctors were prepping my midsection so they could slice it open and cut out my appendix. After a bout of appendicitis, a short vacation from consciousness seemed like a pleasant way to spend a few hours. I had no idea what anesthesia would actually feel like, though, and suddenly I was seized by skepticism. I tried to hoist myself up, already swabbed in iodine.

He showed his subjects a pattern of colored blocks in the upper left-hand corner of a computer monitor. He then had them build a similar pattern of blocks in the lower left-hand corner. Using a computer mouse, the players grabbed blocks, one by one, from a collection on the right side of the screen. The players moved their eyes from the original model to the collection of blocks to the pattern they were building in the lower left-hand corner. Tracking their eye movements, Ballard found that players looked at the model at the upper left before they picked up a block, and then again afterward.

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