Book - 2012
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An investigation into the types, physiological sources, and cultural resonances of hallucinations traces everything from the disorientations of sleep and intoxication to the manifestations of injury and illness
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780307957245
Characteristics: 326 p. ; 22 cm


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IndyPL_SteveB Mar 16, 2019

The works of Oliver Sacks are standard works for anyone interested in the workings of the human brain. But they are entertaining and enlightening for most of us. The most interesting aspect of his writing is the way he uses odd brain states to speculate on what they tell us about the workings of the normal brain – if there is any meaning to the word “normal.”

“Hallucinations” are things we sense (see, hear, feel, smell, etc.) while we are awake that no one else perceives to be there. If you asked most people what they think “hallucination” means, they assume that it refers to someone who is schizophrenic or on illegal drugs. But Sacks points out that there are many other conditions which cause hallucinations. Nearly all of us may have some experience in our life which qualifies for that definition. Epilepsy, migraine headaches, brain tumors, concussions, strokes, or other forms of brain injury typically cause visions and distortions of reality, from flashing lights to visions of people appearing before us. Even more common are the brief aural or visual hallucinations that most of us have one time or another just as we are falling asleep or waking up. This might include hearing someone call your name or someone seeming to be beside you in the bed, when the house is actually empty.

Fascinating writing and a key to our understanding of being human.

Nov 14, 2017

Fascinating exploration of mind states and its effects on consciousness.

Jan 19, 2014

Another using the same genre, lots of sesquipedalians, lots of real life examples and lots of relevances.
We learn various ways hallucinations can erupt, their kinds, and acceptance by the patients involved. we are also treated to historical anecdotes. However, surprisingly, references are especially suspicious; mainly because, many are from the mid to late 19th century,. In fact, its the last few decades that neuroscience has captured and expanded interest.
Some exaggerations in defining a hallucination, it seems to me. But otherwise an informative, enlightening read for most part.

May 07, 2013

Andrew Solomon wrote: "Oliver Sacks relates fascinating case histories and he writes fluently, but he treats his subjects with a tinge of the ringmaster’s bravado — an underlying tone of, 'Hey, if you think that’s weird, wait until you get a load of this one!' It is possible to have clinical rigor without such voyeuristic emotional deficits." As a popular science writer, Sacks patronizes the reader by omitting science and analysis. One of the goals seems to be to treat hallucinations as physical rather than psychological events, yet there is no discussion of neurological or biological causes. Psychological causes of some hallucinations on this list are almost completely ignored except in obvious comments like "a child may create an imaginary friend because he is lonely." The aim seems to be to distance hallucinations from the stigma of mental illness, not to destigmatize mental illness. The subtext seems to be to reassure himself and the reader that hallucinations don’t mean we/he is mentally ill. This book is organized as a list of types, without making any connection between the categories. Granted, this is a popular work. Some anecdotes would be fine, but there is almost no discussion of mechanisms – this isn’t popular science, there is no science. For a doctor, he seems remarkably uninterested in cause and effect and cure. Even for popular science writing, the basic terminology is pretty sloppy. All kinds of terms are interchangeably used for "hallucination," like “visions.”

ChristchurchLib Dec 18, 2012

Seeing, hearing, smelling, or touching things that aren't there isn't normal, right? Maybe not, but it's hardly uncommon. In fact, according to neurologist Oliver Sacks, there are many reasons that people might be deceived by their own senses. Some hallucinations are temporary, the result of substance abuse, injury, or sensory deprivation. Others are symptomatic of underlying conditions or disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson's, or even Charles Bonnet Syndrome (in which memories fill the gaps left by the parts of the brain responsible for vision). In this intriguing collection of case studies, Sacks examines real-life hallucinations, past and present, from Dostoyevsky's epileptic visions to the author's own experiments with drugs -- which resulted in a conversation with a spider about mathematician Betrand Russell.

Nature and Science newsletter December 2012

emily8 Dec 18, 2012

terrific piece of work - very readable, well footnoted with wonderful quotes and stories of things seen... a great mix of anecdotes and science - you won't be disappointed...


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