Friday, April 12, 2013


by Oliver Sacks
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

In his newest book Oliver Sacks, a practicing physician known for such books as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Musicophilia, turns his attention to hallucinations. While in popular culture we tend to think of hallucinations as being psychoses and in the realm of insanity, he focuses primarily on the sort of neurological disorders that sane people have. In fact, hallucinations may not be as odd as we think - haven't we all felt like there was someone behind us, or heard our name even when no one was around?

Primarily organized around types of hallucinations - visual, aural, parkinsonian, phantom limbs, etc. - the book is a fascinating blend of history and case study. Perhaps I was most fascinated to discover the types of hallucinations that I've had, mostly as a child, when I was in that state between sleep and wakefulness and "saw" someone by my bed or in my room. There are other, less common, hallucinations explored, too, and I really enjoyed when he brought up the results of fMRI scans done during hallucinations. The connections between what one experiences and what goes on the brain intrigues me, and I'll definitely be looking to read some of Sacks' earlier works.

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