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Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Oliver Sacks

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6503614,945 (3.59)40
Authors:Oliver Sacks
Info:Knopf Canada (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
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Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks (2012)



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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Not the best Sacks I've ever read, but still interesting. Learned some new things, that's always a plus. ( )
  laurieindra | Jan 4, 2015 |
I've read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and this was along the same lines. Rather than being a series of case studies, this book looks at hallucinations topically. Different chapters cover scent hallucinations, hallucinations that occur during and around sleep, drug-induced hallucinations, phantom limbs, visual hallucinations in patients that have gone blind, have different types of brain injuries, different types and feelings for hallucinations, etc.

I loved the way the topics and chapters were organized. Sacks is also great at covering interesting topics and providing just enough of an explanation without getting too technical. And he uses cases to illustrate each topic and chapter, with accounts from different doctors and patients.

A very interesting book. I read it over the course of a few months, but it was always easy to pick back up and get into, since the chapters read like their own separate topics. I plan on reading Awakenings next. ( )
  ConnieJo | Jan 1, 2015 |
Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who's written a number of other books that I haven't read. Through the course of Hallucinations, I was reminded that I hadn't read these other books, since from time to time he would mention a case and then follow up with "which I described in more detail in my book ____." I appreciate that he didn't want to retread ground that was covered elsewhere, but sometimes it felt a little like I was reading a bibliography, or listening to a series of movie trailers.

Aside from that, this was an interesting look at a large range of things that can be classified as hallucinations. You know how sometimes when you're laying in bed at night with your eyes closed and you'll start to see patterns? Mine are usually kind of like an optical illusion - they'll be a series of shapes that seem to be moving toward me or away from me. I didn't realize those are hallucinations, but they are. The ones we typically think of are covered, of course, including ones induced by drugs and hallucinations that involve each of our different senses. The occurrence of phantom limbs is talked about, and I thought this was one of the more fascinating sections. The relationship between what the eyes see and the brain knows is complicated, and although the brain has a long memory for things it hasn't seen in a while, it does eventually forget. This seems to be a cause for pain in a phantom limb or for feeling like a body part that has been immobile and invisible to you for a long time no longer belongs to you.

It wasn't extremely in depth about any particular type or cause of hallucinations, but instead provides a good overview. I stopped the audio a number of times to look up more information about occurrences he described just because some of them seemed too wild to be true, but of course they were true. What more can you really ask for in a book about hallucinations than to be entertained and left with a little wonder and head-shaking at the odd and amazing things that our brains can do? ( )
  ursula | Aug 17, 2014 |
Neurologist Oliver Sacks turns his attention to the topic of people who see (or hear, or, occasionally, smell or feel) things that aren't actually there. There's a little bit of overlap here with some of his earlier books, but I'd say there's more than enough that's new to make it worthwhile even if you've read everything else he's written. It's not an exhaustive look at the topic of hallucinations, because he doesn't really get into hallucinations that come with psychosis, such as schizophrenia -- a topic that seems like it could well fill another whole book by itself. He talks about a huge variety of other things that can cause hallucinations, though. Indeed, I had no idea there were so many things that could cause hallucinations! There's blindness (total or partial) or sensory deprivation, which can lead to the brain inventing images to fill the nothingness. There's drugs such as LSD, of course. And a number of diseases, including some I never would have associated with hallucinations. Migraines, which often come with visual auras, but can sometimes get even weirder. Fever delirium. Brain damage. Perfectly ordinary brains getting confused on waking up or falling asleep. And lets not forget phantom limbs...

As usual with Sack's books, there are a lot of fascinating descriptions of things his patients and others have experienced, intermixed with some layman's-level explanations about what's going on in the brain when this stuff happens, at least as far as it's actually understood. There are also some relevant accounts of the author's own personal experience; among other things, Sacks took a surprising amount of drugs back in the 60s. In the end, also as usual, I'm left with a bemused appreciation of how incredibly complex our brains are and just how deeply weird things can get when they go a bit wrong. I also keep expecting to start hallucinating myself any moment, but hopefully that will pass. ( )
1 vote bragan | Jun 28, 2014 |
I have almost completed the entire Sacks's oeuvre, with just Oaxaca Journal and Seeing Voices to go. Oliver Sacks has been one of those life altering writers for me. He has changed the way I see the world. The great revelation with this volume for me was just how commonplace hallucinations are. There are myriad reasons why the brain might produce them: sensory deprivation, disease, drugs, etc.--many of them surprisingly benign. Fascinating and highly recommended.

Also see Will Self's review at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/08/hallucinations-oliver-sacks-review ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:57 -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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