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Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Oliver Sacks

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Authors:Oliver Sacks
Info:Knopf (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Nonfiction, Culture/Sociology, Your library

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Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Oliver Sacks was a brilliant neuroscientist but an even better writer. I have read at least 6 of his books and enjoyed every one of them. More to the point, I learned something from each one. This book is no exception. Unfortunately Sacks died a few weeks ago and, unless he had something in the works, his autobiography, On the Move, will be his last book. There are some of his older books that I have not read and I will savour them.
If I had ever thought about hallucinations I guess I would have thought that they were something people with mental health problems experienced. As Sacks has shown in the book hallucinations can be the result of many diseases or conditions and most of them are due to some change in the brain. Hallucinations can be visual, auditory, tactile or olfactory. They can last for a few seconds or persist for weeks. Many famous people including Sacks himself have experienced hallucinations.
Most people are reluctant to tell others that they have experienced hallucinations, fearing that doctors will diagnose them with a mental illness. That is a possible result. In the chapter called “Hearing Things” Sacks relates a 1973 experiment in which 8 people presented themselves at a variety of hospitals across the United States with a complaint of hearing voices. “They told the hospital staff that they could not really make out what the voices said but that they heard the words ‘empty’, ‘hollow’ and ‘thud’. Apart from this fabrication, they behaved normally and recounted their own (normal) past experiences and medical history.” All of these people were admitted to hospital for up to two months and diagnosed with schizophrenia or manic-depressive psychosis. None of the medical staff discovered that these patients were in an experiment. Interestingly, real patients figured it out. One said “You’re not crazy. You’re a journalist or a professor.”
I would think that people who have experienced hallucinations and not told anyone would be encouraged by this book. It is obvious that hallucinations are much more common than is believed. Since they can be signs of some abnormality in the brain it would be important to have the issue discussed and examined. ( )
  gypsysmom | Sep 22, 2015 |
Hallucinations is not my favorite Oliver Sacks book, but it’s still quite interesting. I had no idea that there were so many different types and causes of hallucinations. Even though some readers may find the theme and a few of the cases repetitive, it’s well worth sticking with it for Sacks’ personal anecdotes. This is the first book of his I’ve read where Sacks reveals more about his own life experiences, and it was the highlight of the book for me. Overall, Hallucinations isn’t quite as outstanding as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, but I still quite enjoyed it. ( )
  les121 | Aug 23, 2015 |
More about hallucinations than you ever wanted to know. It starts out kind of neat, learning about the hallucinations brought on by sensory loss or drug use, but it gets very repetitive. ( )
  melydia | May 9, 2015 |
I'll confess that this is the first Oliver Sacks book I have read, although I have seen his work mentioned all over and have always been intrigued. I was not disappointed with Hallucinations, an engaging book that covers hallucinations not caused by psychosis, such as seen in schizophrenia.

The hallucinations Sacks covers are diverse and cover an array of causes: from Charles Bonnet syndrome to sensory deprivation, from sleep paralysis to phantom limb syndrome. Together with a variety of historical sources and patient accounts, he has pulled together a book that covers everything but psychosis. Some hallucinations have roots inside the brain, such as the prelude to an epileptic seizure, while others come from more nebulous sources, like grief or trauma. He even delves into intentional hallucinations, the kind caused by taking psychadelic drugs, which he apparently has ample experience with.

Sacks writes fluidly and has a wry sense of humor that crops up every now and again; though he occasionally delves into decidedly more than "pop" neuropsychology, I never felt bored reading it.

Definitely interesting to those who are curious about the brain and its often strange workings. ( )
  kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
As always Oliver Sachs writes fascinating books with really interesting neurological stories. This also adds his usage of drugs which I had never heard of before. My only difficulty was that by the end I was getting a bit bored. The hallucinations I found more interesting were in the beginning of the book. ( )
  KamGeb | Apr 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
"Why Kermit?" This was the question asked by a woman who started to have hallucinations of the "Sesame Street" frog many times a day, several weeks after brain surgery. Kermit meant nothing to her, she said, and his shifting moods -- sometimes he looked sad, sometimes happy, occasionally angry -- had nothing to do with her own feelings.

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Ruiter, PonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307957241, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: A familiar song on mental repeat, a shadowy movement in an empty house--many of us experience minor visual and auditory hallucinations and think nothing of it. Neurologist and professor Oliver Sacks concerns himself with those for whom such breaks with reality are acute and life altering. Dr. Sacks’ latest book--one of the most compelling in his fascinating oeuvre--centers on Charles Bonnet syndrome, a condition characterized by intricate visual hallucinations. Weaving together case studies with anecdotes from his own past and accessible medical explanations, Dr. Sacks introduces us to Sharon, whose vision is invaded by Kermit the Frog; Gertie, whose phantasmal gentleman caller visits each evening, bearing gifts; and a host of other patients whose experiences elicit both sympathy and self-reflection. (The good doctor also shares his own experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, to comic and insightful effect.) Hallucinations is Oliver Sacks at his best: as learned, introspective, and approachable as we could possibly imagine. --Mia Lipman

The Neurological and the Divine: An Interview with Oliver Sacks

The following is an excerpt from a Q&A with Dr. Sacks published on Omnivoracious, the Amazon Books blog. Click here to read the full interview.

Mia Lipman: In Hallucinations, you mention that your childhood migraines are one of the reasons you became a neurologist. How did they help shape your path?

Dr. Sacks: My experiences go back to my first memories of when I was three or four, suddenly seeing a brilliant zigzag which seemed to be vibrating, then enlarged and covered everything to one side. This has happened innumerable times since, but that first time was very terrifying…I know I was in the garden, and part of the garden wall seemed to disappear, and I asked my mother about it. She too had classical migraines, so she explained what it was about and said that it was benign and it would only last a few minutes, and I'd be none the worse. So though I'm not in love with the attacks, it's nice to know that one can live with this quite well.

So that early experience made you curious about why this was happening to you?

Indeed, and there were other experiences. Sometimes it was just color, perhaps in one half of the visual field, or things would be frozen and I couldn't see any movement. So I think this gave me a very early feeling that it's only the privilege of a normal brain which allows us to see the way we do—and that what seems to be a simple vision in fact must have dozens of different components, and any one of these can go down. So it was a learning experience for me as well.

Speaking of learning experiences, you talk in the book about a period in your 30s when you did a lot of hallucinogenic drugs—

Ah, I thought that would come up. [Laughing.]

Of course, it's the best part! I especially liked your description of the results as "a mix of the neurological and the divine." What did this self-experimentation teach you about your field, as well as personally?

I can't conceal that my motives were sort of mixed, but these were learning experiences as well as recreational ones, and occasionally terrifying ones. The gain, I think, [is that] it's a way of revealing various capacities and incapacities in the brain, including, perhaps, mystical ones…I quote William James, who, after taking nitrous oxide, said that it showed him there were many forms of consciousness other than rational consciousness, and that these seem to be uncovered one by one. And that's quite an experience. I do not recommend it to anybody, and I hope my writing about these things is not seen as a recommendation. I think I'm very lucky to have survived them, which several of my friends and contemporaries didn't.

> Continue reading "The Neurological and the Divine: An Interview with Oliver Sacks"

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:58 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

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