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The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks

The Mind's Eye (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Oliver Sacks

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980438,867 (3.71)30
Title:The Mind's Eye
Authors:Oliver Sacks
Info:Knopf (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, minds and brains, health and medicine, read in 2012

Work details

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks (2010)

Recently added byjesskilford, private library, mavaddat, JLKP, jay_sejpal, shael, bruceandceals
  1. 00
    In the Eye of the Beholder: The Science of Face Perception by Vicki Bruce (nessreader)
    nessreader: Eye/Beholder is a heavily illustrated (based on an art exhibition) book about how the brain identifies and sorts and memorises faces, so it mostly relates to the 1st of Sacks' essays.
  2. 00
    Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See by Donald D. Hoffman (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: By means of many illustrations, Hoffman lays out some of the rules by which our brains interpret what our eyes see.
  3. 00
    The Man Who Forgot How to Read: A Memoir by Howard Engel (SylviaC)
    SylviaC: The Mind's Eye includes a chapter about Howard Engel, and Oliver Sacks provides an afterword to The Man Who Forgot How to Read

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More than just a collection of interesting neurological case studies (which are bewilderingly amazing in and of themselves, the extent to which our brains are capable of reconciling the stimuli we receive to certain imagery or experience or feeling, the ways it can be so easily manipulated and deceived, the delicacy of the brain with all its interacting components and also its elastic attempts to counteract any imbalances), I also liked how each case, from aphasia to stereoscopy to blindness, can be so easily interpreted as a metaphor (seeing but not recognising, loss of one aspect leading to new appreciation for the usual experienced from a different aspect, the importance of peripheral vision giving context to the central vision).

Recommended for fans of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Sacks' personable writing style. ( )
  kitzyl | Apr 25, 2017 |
Summary: Narratives of those who because of optical or neural issues experience distortions in or loss of sight, and how they adapt to such losses.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks left us a series of narratives of neurological impairments and how people with these adapted to life. In this volume he considers cases of visual impairment or loss, describing both a collection of different impairments, some in the eye, some in the brain, and how real people have adapted to losses or changes in this seemingly essential sense.

He begins with a concert pianist who loses her ability to read music. She could remember pieces and play them with perfection, and yet could not make sense any longer of musical notation. In this, as in other narratives, he wrote eloquently, and with admiration of her adaptation:

"Lilian had been ingenious and resilient in the eleven or twelve years since her illness started. She had brought inner resources of every kind to her own aid: visual, musical, emotional, intellectual. Her family, her friends, her husband and daughter, and above all, but also her students and colleagues, helpful people in the supermarket or on the street--everyone had helped her cope. Her adaptations to the agnosia were extraordinary--a lesson in what could be done to hold together a life in the face of ever-advancing perceptual and cognitive challenge. But it was in her art, her music, that Lilian not only coped with disease but transcended it. This was clear when she played the piano, an art that both demands and provides a sort of superintegration, a total integration of sense and muscle, of body and mind, of memory and fantasy, of intellect and emotion, of one's whole self, of being alive. Her musical powers, mercifully, remained untouched by her disease."

In succeeding chapters, he describes a patient with receptive aphasia resulting from a stroke, a man who no longer could decode letters into words and sentences, even though he could continue to write them, the challenges of those who are face-blind, a woman who through therapy, achieves stereoscopic vision for the first time in her adult life, and how this changed her perception of the world, and what happens within the brain when a person becomes blind and yet continues to have a "visual sense" of the world-- a "mind's eye."

Perhaps the most moving was the description of the author's own experience of visual distortion due to a form of melanoma and eventual loss of stereoscopic vision with retinal bleeding in one eye. He describes the changes in his own perception of the world, his loss of a sense of the existence of half of his visual field, and how he personally adapted to this loss.

Like other books by Saks, he brings together the fascinating world of neuroscience, and the marvelous uniqueness of the human beings whose stories he tells. He helped me marvel at the sense of sight that I take so for granted, and yet could change or be lost for a host of reasons (I need to make that eye check up appointment!). And he helped me appreciate the tremendous ingenuity of individuals, and the fascinating properties of the brain, that enable people to adapt to devastating loss. ( )
  BobonBooks | Jan 12, 2017 |
'Cerebral phenomena'
By sally tarbox on 19 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
In this book, Sacks explores 'the unexplored territory of the brain.' Following case studies, we encounter people who suddenly lost the ability to read (but not to write). I was interested in the chapter on prosopagnosia (inability to recognise faces) from which I suffer somewhat myself.
But most intriguing for me was Sacks' account of his loss of vision in the centre of one eye following cancer treatment, leaving him initially with 'a huge black opacity partly obscuring central vision....facing my reflection I could not see my own head with my right eye - only my shoulders and the bottom of my beard.' Yet sometime later the brain had taught itself to compensate, filling in the black scotoma with the colour of the surroundings. 'The blind spot , so called, does not just fill in colour, it fills in patterns too', Sacks goes on to explain... Quite amazing!
Clear and accessible writing for the layperson. ( )
  starbox | Jul 11, 2016 |
In The Mind's Eye, noted neurologist and author Oliver Sacks writes about a variety of brain functions and dysfunctions (especially those caused suddenly and unexpectedly, such as after a stroke), with a particular focus on those that affect visual sensation or perception in some manner. Sacks does so by discussing the case histories of patients he treated over the years. For instance, one man - an author by trade - loses his ability to read the written word. Another woman gains the ability to see stereoscopically after years of seeing everything as flat. Sacks uses these case studies and others as jumping off places to delve into additional research on each of these subjects, supplying a lot of history and neuroscience to further explain the phenomenon he sees in each of his cases, so the reader comes away better informed.

I found this particular book so interesting because Sacks interjects so much about himself into this one. For example, he talks about his own struggles with "face blindness," a condition in which he (and others with it) can hardly recognize a person by their facial features, even people close to them such as family members, co-workers, or neighbors. He describes being unable or easily confused in recognizing even his own face at times. Another lengthy section of the book - written in a journal style - covers Sacks's loss of vision in one eye after dealing with a tumor.

It is very interesting to read about how the various patients covered in this book learn to live with their neurological dysfunctions and regain at least some sense of normalcy in their lives, especially given that so many of these issues occur as a result of a trauma later in life. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? However, there are also really rather sad consequences, such as one patient who Sacks sees progressively worsen over time. All in all, this was a fascinating read, especially for those interested in psychology, neuroscience, or just learning more about the human condition. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Apr 30, 2016 |
Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who discusses a number of his patients who have lost or gained certain brain function due to health conditions mostly. Some had lost the ability to recognize certain everyday objects or even people. Others had lost some or all of their sight. For some, they adapted in new ways and their brains developed new or enhanced abilities, such as, being able to visually see, very clearly in their minds, objects or a scene and rotate it to see different perspectives.

What I enjoyed most was learning how the patients lived and adapted. I learned that the people who worked at learning how to adapt in new ways were more likely to develop new brain abilities. There was quite a lot of medical explanation, which sometimes made it feel like a textbook. Overall, I liked it. ( )
  gaylebutz | Apr 14, 2016 |
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Mr. Brain can be a demon from hell when it decides to turn against its body.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307272087, Hardcover)

In The Mind’s Eye, Oliver Sacks tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities: the power of speech, the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, the sense of sight. For all of these people, the challenge is to adapt to a radically new way of being in the world.

There is Lilian, a concert pianist who becomes unable to read music and is eventually unable even to recognize everyday objects, and Sue, a neurobiologist who has never seen in three dimensions, until she suddenly acquires stereoscopic vision in her fifties.

There is Pat, who reinvents herself as a loving grandmother and active member of her community, despite the fact that she has aphasia and cannot utter a sentence, and Howard, a prolific novelist who must find a way to continue his life as a writer even after a stroke destroys his ability to read.

And there is Dr. Sacks himself, who tells the story of his own eye cancer and the bizarre and disconcerting effects of losing vision to one side.

Sacks explores some very strange paradoxes—people who can see perfectly well but cannot recognize their own children, and blind people who become hyper-visual or who navigate by “tongue vision.” He also considers more fundamental questions: How do we see? How do we think? How important is internal imagery—or vision, for that matter? Why is it that, although writing is only five thousand years old, humans have a universal, seemingly innate, potential for reading?

The Mind’s Eye
is a testament to the complexity of vision and the brain and to the power of creativity and adaptation. And it provides a whole new perspective on the power of language and communication, as we try to imagine what it is to see with another person’s eyes, or another person’s mind.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:01 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Includes stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and faculties: the power of speech, the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, and the sense of sight. This book is a testament to the complexity of vision and the brain and to the power of creativity and adaptation, and it provides a whole new perspective on the power of language and communication, as we try to imagine what it is to perceive through another person's eyes, or another person's mind.… (more)

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