Brain and self are the common threads that are used by neuropsychiatry, neuropharmacology, and philosophy to get some hold on one of the most intractable problems of humankind, namely, “consciousness.” Is there a common issue in brain and self studies that appears over and again? Yes. That is the attempt to explain the unity, continuity, and adherence of our experience, whether it is sensory or mental. To address the unity, adherence, and continuity of experience is to address the place of the self in the brain.
A major challenge to this effort is the fact that, though we tend to commonly address a static unit by calling it “self,” the self is a constantly emerging phenomenon as a result of its interaction with nature outside (social and biological) and the nurture inside (mind).In the works of several neuropsychiatrists of recent times we see how they use the first-person account of experiences of their patients to understand the construal of agency and experience in challenging situations. These accounts have brought in the humanising picture of the brain and give an alternate perspective to understand the brain and the body. Jonathan Cole in a telling manner narrates the case of patients with spinal cord injury. He explains the neurology and phenomenology of unusual condition of deafferentation in patients. They have extreme difficulty with movement because of the lack of senses of touch and proprioception below the neck. Cole’s narratives explain how they experience and project their agency (1998). In Still Lives, Jonathan Cole (2004) gives an account of the responses he received from people with quadriplegia due to spinal cord injuries for the question ‘what it is like to live without sensation and movement in the body’.If the body is dysfunctional, where does the self reside? Cole finds that there is no single or simple answer.