Horizontal photo of a bookshelf with various book spines visible, many with library catalog stickers, and a few authored by Oliver Sacks. Photo by Marc Dingman

Marc Dingman—Bizarre: The Most Peculiar Cases of Human Behavior and What They Tell Us about How the Brain Works




Marc Dingman
Nicholas Brealey Publishing, Feb 7, 2023
Paperback, $19.95, e-pub, $19.99
ISBN-13: 978-1399801201

Dingman reports:

In Bizarre, I describe an assortment of unusual conditions and human behaviors and explore what might be going on in the brain to cause them. Some of the conditions I discuss are rare; these include clinical lycanthropy, a disorder that prompts individuals to believe they can change into an animal such as a wolf, snake, cow, or even a gerbil. Others involve strange behaviors we all exhibit on a regular basis, such as making decisions without consciously thinking about them or getting angry at a piece of technology as if it were a living entity.

Marc Dingman

Marc Dingman

I wrote the book for readers with no neuroscience background, aiming to boost understanding of this topic by tying each behavior or condition back to the brain.

Rare cases fascinate me; they sparked my interest in neuroscience while I was an undergraduate. When I first read about alien hand syndrome, a condition where one hand/limb acts with a mind of its own, often against the desires of its owner, I became hooked on learning about the brain. I was amazed that such a peculiar behavior could emerge from our own heads.

To gather information for this book, I combed scientific and popular literature to find case studies of patients with rare disorders and examples of unusual human behavior. I then scoured neuroscience research, relying heavily on my neuroscience background to identify possible explanations for those disorders and behaviors, most of which are not fully understood.

This is my second book on the brain. I feel fortunate that the publisher of my first book, Your Brain Explained, offered to publish this one as well. My agent, Linda Konner, facilitated both deals.

The most difficult part of writing Bizarre was finding time to write during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although quarantined at home, I had a full-time job teaching neuroscience at Penn State and two children under age 10 being home-schooled. This left me with little time during normal waking hours to write. I decided the only way to complete the book was to get up before everyone else and do the bulk of my writing then. I began arising at 4 AM every day to write. Now that the writing is over, I’m enjoying sleeping until after the sun rises.

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February 7, 2023

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

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