Detective Stories from the World of Neurology

Publication Date: Oct 30, 2018

352 pp


List Price US $26.95
Trim Size (H x W): 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1-59051-795-6-1


List Price US $12.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-796-3-1

A leading neurologist recounts some of her most astonishing, challenging cases, which demonstrate how crucial the study of epilepsy has been to our understanding of the brain.

Brainstorm follows the stories of people whose medical diagnoses are so strange even their doctor struggles to know how to solve them. A man who sees cartoon characters running across the room; a girl whose world suddenly seems completely distorted, as though she were Alice in Wonderland; another who transforms into a ragdoll whenever she even thinks about moving.

The brain is the most complex structure in the universe. Neurologists must puzzle out life-changing diagnoses from the tiniest of clues, the ultimate medical detective work. In this riveting book, Suzanne O’Sullivan takes you with her as she tracks the clues of her patients’ symptoms. It’s a journey that will open your eyes to the unfathomable intricacies of our brains and the infinite variety of human experience.

Excerpt from Brainstorm

The picture was blurred but I thought I could see Wahid repeatedly swallowing. His eyes were wide open and they began to move. They tracked gradually to the side, very much as if he was watching something traveling slowly around the room. His eyes didn’t stop roving until they were looking all the way to the left. Only the whites were clearly visible. Then his head followed in the direction that his eyes had taken, until his neck was stretched and his head had gone as far as it could. At the exact same time that his head moved, his left arm rose upward and outward until it was perpendicular to his side. His index finger pointed severely just as I had heard described. It did indeed look exactly as if he had seen something that nobody else could see.

“Well done videoing it from the very start,” I said to Selma.

Most videos of strange attacks begin in the middle. It is hard for a witness to film them from their very first second.

“It was easy. He goes to bed and in the first two hours it happens. I just had to wait. I left the light on too,” Selma told me.

“You were awake for it?” I asked Wahid.

“Awake enough. I couldn’t talk, but I knew Selma was filming me.”

Wahid was still staring away from Selma and me as he spoke.

“Do you know what it is?” Selma asked.

I did know. Much medical diagnosis relies on recognizing a familiar story when you hear it. I had heard stories like Wahid’s before. I had also seen videos like this before. Many of them.

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Guardian

“Brilliant…[a] beautifully humane account.” —The Guardian, Best Books of the Year

“Mesmerizing…a true gift to readers who may have brain injuries or disorders, and well beyond that population, to anyone interested in the brain and how its wounding shapes behavior.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A collection of probing and empathetic stories of difficult neurological cases…O’Sullivan is a skilled storyteller in the same league as Oliver Sacks.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[O’Sullivan] succeeds both in showing the brain as the most sophisticated of all puzzles and in giving a sense of the intricate problem solving that goes into the diagnosis and treatment of brain ailments…a valuable resource.” —Publishers Weekly

“A terrific follow-up [to Is It All in Your Head?]…In the space between cold diagnostic data and the personal challenges facing her patients, O’Sullivan’s sympathy, compassion and understanding come through…Brainstorm deserves a place on the same bookshelf [as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat].” —Seattle Times

“A tremendously interesting work…wonderfully humane.” —The Telegraph

“A fascinating attempt to draw the lay reader into understanding more about the function and malfunction of the brain using real-life stories.” —The Times (UK)

“Fascinating…these profiles poignantly capture the indiscriminate nature of epilepsy and its wide-ranging manifestations. O’Sullivan’s prose strikes a balance between empathy and science, thoughtfully communicating each person’s story…Enlightening and humbling.” —Booklist

“As one would expect from a neurologist in the Oliver Sacks tradition, O’Sullivan is a sure guide to these maverick brains and strange auras.” —The Guardian

“Engaging and diverse…Brainstorm isn’t just a good read. It is full of interesting science, clearly described and carefully woven in with more anecdotal passages…an engrossing book written by a doctor whose primary interest is in her patients.” —The Lancet
“O’Sullivan is a calm and clear guide to the diagnostic methods (equal parts art and science) of modern neurology…one of the larger, more humane achievements of her book is to have broadened our sense of what a storm in the brain might look like, or feel like.” —Irish Times

“Tender, moving, and fascinating…This is a book about neurology, and how the function of our brains affects everything. But it is much more than that. Suzanne O’Sullivan’s real detective work is found in the gaps and spaces between doctor and patient, where she gets to the heart of who we are.” —Christie Watson, author of The Language of Kindness