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Book and Media Reviews
November 16, 2011

A Hole in the Head: More Tales in the History of Neuroscience

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Shadingfield, Suffolk, United Kingdom (

JAMA. 2011;306(19):2164-2165. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1685

What does a (tall) tale involving Philip Roth's character Alexander Portnoy—he of the complaint—have to do with the ancient practice of trepanation? Answer: both feature in the opening and closing chapters of Charles G. Gross' second collection of essays on the history of neuroscience. Intervening chapters present discussions of topics ranging from the evil eye to Renaissance art and echolocation.

This is an eclectic volume befitting its author. Gross, an experimental neuroscientist at Princeton, has long had an interest in history and nurtured it over his distinguished career investigating the inferior temporal cortex and its role in vision and memory. The essays have been published before, but Gross provides postscripts to each. The postscripts do more than update bibliographies (useful though this is); they allow Gross to comment on relevant new ideas and on his own work after the passage of time.