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The mind's eye by Oliver W. Sacks

The mind's eye (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Oliver W. Sacks

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1,0984611,267 (3.72)33
Title:The mind's eye
Authors:Oliver W. Sacks
Info:New York : Knopf, 2010.
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks (2010)

  1. 00
    On Blindness: Letters between Bryan Magee and Martin Milligan by Bryan Magee (SnootyBaronet)
    SnootyBaronet: Philosophical meditations on blindness
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Not as riveting as some of Sacks' other work, but still an interesting, accessible read. ( )
  mrsmig | Jan 19, 2018 |
A typical selection of essays by Dr. Oliver Sacks, managing to be profoundly sad and profoundly inspiring simultaneously. If you happen to be unfamiliar with Sack’s work, he writes evocative descriptions of various neurological problems, often touched with wry humor and insight. In The Mind’s Eye he discusses various cases where neurological (rather than optical) problems affect vision. In one case, a patient has alexia, which progresses to agnosia; the subject first loses the ability to read (although, paradoxically, she can still write), then gradually loses the ability to recognize once-familiar objects. Her intelligence and memory are unaffected; she still knows what (for example) an apple is, she just can’t recognize one when she sees it. There’s no cure, but she develops some compensating abilities; always a talented musician she can no longer sight-read but can compose and transcribe music mentally (something she couldn’t do before).

Another patient, after a lifetime of lacking stereo vision (due to strabismus correction surgery that was delayed a little too long), more or less suddenly develops it after additional treatment. Her wonder at first seeing a snowstorm in depth makes me appreciate my own stereoscopic ability even more. (This chapter mentions my thesis advisor, John Cisne, who demonstrated that some of the elaborate illuminations in medieval manuscripts could be accomplished by “free-fused” stereoscopy. I used to be able to do free-fused stereoscopy but lost the ability after cataract surgery; can’t focus close enough anymore).

Several cases discuss visual imagery; do people “see” things in their minds, and if so do they use the same parts of the brain that process data coming from their eyes. Evidence is equivocal and mostly anecdotal but tantalizing; some total blind people still claim they can “see” mentally (including a blind Australian who had such a good mental image of his house roof that he was able to replace all his gutters unassisted. At night.) while others have no mental visual capability at all.

Another chapter gives a name to a defect I have myself (and I share with Dr. Sacks)– prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces. In both my case and Dr. Sacks, it’s fairly mild – Sacks notes it appears to be normally distributed, with some people with hyper abilities (able to recognize faces they saw for a few seconds years earlier) while other are totally deficient (unable to recognize their wives and children, or themselves in a mirror). In both our cases our facial recognition ability is dependent on context; we can recognize people in familiar situations but not in unfamiliar ones – i.e., classmates or coworkers in class or at work but not when encountered on the street or in a restaurant. Dr. Sacks seems to be somewhat more deficient than me; he was unable to recognize his personal assistant when he saw her in a doctor’s waiting room rather than at home. I’m not that bad, but I still have trouble. Interestingly, the problem seems to correlate with Asperger’s syndrome.

The final chapters recount Dr. Sack’s own visual changes after he had a retinal melanoma removed. After radiation and laser surgery he ended up with a “blind spot” in his right visual field that, eventually, his brain would “fill in”. At first it was only uniform fields – if he was looking at the sky the spot would turn a uniform blue. However, after a while the infilling would become more sophisticated. If he brought his hand into the area, it would first disappear as if it had been cut off at the wrist; but if he held it there for a while the brain would generate a “phantom hand” (especially if he did something like wiggling the fingers). The effect isn’t fast enough to be useful in everyday life; he still has to twist around to see somebody on his right.

Recommended – a very quick (afternoon) read. Well referenced to original literature; the only illustrations are Sacks’ own line drawings of what he saw during treatment for his melanoma. ( )
1 vote setnahkt | Dec 26, 2017 |
Another wonderful book from Sacks, this time focused on visual disorders, abilities, adaptations, and the nature of seeing itself.

Sacks' own story of losing first stereo-vision, then vision in his right eye completely (as well as the story of his inability to recognize faces) humanizes him and conveys how even a lifelong professional in neurological matters can be a very fragile human being when it comes to dealing with a sudden sensory change.

This is balanced by lovely stories of impressive ways in which affected individuals deal with their disabilities, and one wonderful example of a woman who only gained a common, taken-for-granted sense later in life.

I enjoyed this more than 'Musicophilia', which made me scared since I have no musical ability whatsoever, and Sacks paints it as crucial to the human experience. I'm a "visual thinker", though (Sacks goes into what this might mean) so this book delighted me. ( )
1 vote mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote BobonBooks | Jan 12, 2017 |
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Mr. Brain can be a demon from hell when it decides to turn against its body.
added by WeeklyAlibi | editWeekly Alibi, John Bear (Nov 18, 2010)
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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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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