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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking tour of the human mind that illuminates the biological nature of our inner worlds and emotions, through gripping, moving - and, at times, harrowing - clinical stories

“[A] scintillating and moving analysis of the human brain and emotions.” (Nature)

“Beautifully connects the inner feelings within all human beings to deep insights from modern psychiatry and neuroscience.” (Robert Lefkowitz, Nobel Laureate)

Karl Deisseroth has spent his life pursuing truths about the human mind, both as a renowned clinical psychiatrist and as a researcher creating and developing the revolutionary field of optogenetics, which uses light to help decipher the brain’s workings. In Projections, he combines his knowledge of the brain’s inner circuitry with a deep empathy for his patients to examine what mental illness reveals about the human mind and the origin of human feelings - how the broken can illuminate the unbroken.

Through cutting-edge research and gripping case studies from Deisseroth’s own patients, Projections tells a larger story about the material origins of human emotion, bridging the gap between the ancient circuits of our brain and the poignant moments of suffering in our daily lives. The stories of Deisseroth’s patients are rich with humanity and shine an unprecedented light on the self - and the ways in which it can break down. 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 depression and dementia, shows how humans evolved to feel not only joy but also its absence; and a lonely Uighur woman far from her homeland teaches both the importance - and challenges - of deep social bonds.

Illuminating, literary, and essential, Projections is a revelatory, immensely powerful work. It transforms our understanding not only of the brain but of ourselves as social beings - giving vivid illustrations through science and resonant human stories of our yearning for connection and meaning.

©2021 Karl Deisseroth (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Because of his experiences as a physician and researcher, Dr. Deisseroth recognizes the limitations of science and medicine and the transcendent value of elemental human connection.... In life’s most difficult moments, it might be everything.” (The Wall Street Journal

“Deisseroth achieves the difficult feat of moving and enlightening the reader at the same time.”The Guardian 

“[Karl Deisseroth’s] imaginative narrative flows effortlessly.... There is a first love of reading and writing and hints of a literary imagination that draws on James Joyce and Toni Morrison.... His narratives are always sensitive.... An admixture of fact and fiction, reality and imagination, damage and desire.” (Science)

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What listeners say about Projections

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Authors, USE BETTER NARRATORS!!

The subject matter is fascinating. However, the author makes the rookie mistake of reading his own book aloud.

Big, big, BIG mistake.

The author's voice may be rather excellent for reading bedtime stories, or soothing a depressed person considering suicide. However, it's just about the worst voice EVER for reading a book on psychiatry and neuroscience. It took every ounce of willpower I had just to pay attention to what he was saying, while fighting the urge to fall asleep the whole time. A science book should NEVER have a narrator this dull, soft-toned, and boring. NEVER. What a completely avoidable disaster this was.

10 people found this helpful

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Catalyst ❤️

Revolutionary. This book is a catalyst for healthcare reforms of epic proportions. Especially within the VA system. It highlights a need for prioritizing patience, analysis, stakeholder and patient input in an era of Ai development where systems are biased towards concrete symptom checklists and a revolving door of pharmaceutical profitability. Deisseroth is an engaging, talented and revelatory writer who should grace the world with far more words, far more often. Projections is going to save lives.

5 people found this helpful

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Needs new narrator

I found the narrators choppy approach and various pauses enough to make me lose focus and place much of the time. Many of the key words are de-emphasizes leaving me hurrying to connect the subject with the current material.

The book content is great but it’s being done a disservice by the narration.

4 people found this helpful

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Good content ruined by the author’s artistic ambitions

I really wanted to like this book. I got enthusiastic about it from the interview with the author in the Humbermanlab podcast. There is clearly great research, a wealth of experience/knowledge and valuable messages behind the book. Nonetheless, the writing style doesn’t match the content, the language is overly complicated and it’s purpose not to convey the content but to impress the reader or at least fulfill the artistic ambitions of the author. What made it even worse to get through it is the monotone and melancholic voice and reading style. As a result I struggle to listen to the book and extract value from it. Both wording and reading should have been left for professionals. If I want to listen to poems I will buy a piece from an actual artist read by an actor/actress. Popular science books have the same plain language for a good reason.
I am really sorry for that, but I hope the author will keep his genius research and high school drama group activities separate in the future.

4 people found this helpful

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I bought this book as a recommendation by Andrew Huberman

I bought this book as a recommendation by Andrew Huberman. It is a brilliant book illustrating all the amazing ideas as a combination of science, psychology and the beauty & impact of language.

4 people found this helpful

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A must read (or listen) for med students

I hated my psychiatry rotation in med school. It felt squishy and unscientific. The patients never got REALLY better. I was assigned to the inpatient eating disorder unit. While I am generally empathic to a fault, that group of mostly socioeconomically privileged white girls who couldn’t bear to eat was annoying as shit. I left that unit as fast as a dinner roll one of them would have tossed into a potted plant. This book, with its perfect word choice and juxtaposition of science and story, has opened my eyes. I wish it had been available and required. Just can’t recommend enough!!!

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant!

Compelling synthesis of science with the warmth of human experience told with wit and imagination.

1 person found this helpful

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Not Oliver Sacks, but a still significant voice

True; he's not the best narrator but I much prefer authors reading their own books. Karl has really weird pacing of words, but that's just how he talks in real life. It's not burdensome.

The book is remarked as purple but I give the benefit of the doubt that he is putting it the way he really wants to put it. I like some of his artistry, but oftentimes your subjectivity of certain word choices and allegories feel awkward.

Karl Deisseroth is a god among men in the Biomedical neuroengineer domain so being able to exit scientific writing and pen from his own conscience and character is a sure welcome. The quality of his writing mixed with his aesthetic is perhaps not competing the quality of Oliver Sacks, but again, aesthetic is about taking some risks so I give him a 4/5 in context for learning about his journey in optogenetics and psychiatry and seeing what he believes is worth attention for readers.

Despite others' critique, I encourage Deisseroth to continue his creativity with his research reporting; I want his voice.

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Great narration

An artful and scientific work. It is narrated wonderfully by the author himself, which is always a treat. Well done.

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Wow. A real page turner.

Definitely going to buy this in physical format. It is a great story written by a brilliant physician scientist. Highly recommend!