Gweek 075: Oliver Sacks' Hallucinations


12 Responses to “Gweek 075: Oliver Sacks' Hallucinations”

  1. Stefan Jones says:

    Dang, I’m falling behind. I still have to read Sack’s book about music.

    I think the first Sacks book I read was Island of the Colorblind. A travelogue, botany lesson, and neurology tale all in one. I hooked my aunt and mother on his books, and they actually went to his lectures back East.

  2. jkg says:

    The movie with DeNiro and Williams ain’t bad either

  3. Being dyslexic I thought how many olives are in a sack and how can they cause hallucinations.

  4. jkg says:

    gotta mention the Big Black classic “L-Dopa” since we are on the subject

  5. Glen Able says:

    Good stuff!  My first encounter with Sacks’ work was “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat”, which blew my mind (repeatedly!)  It’s funny (not ha-ha funny) that the main way we get insights into how the mind works is by examining cases where things have broken badly.

    Btw, I don’t think it’s correct to say he has Asperger’s.  He’s said “I’m an honorary Tourette’s because I tend to jerk.  I am also an honorary Asperger. And I’m an honorary bipolar. I suspect we all have a bit of everything.”

    I like the way he’s expressed that – all too often people like to claim they have “mild Asperger’s” or similar.  The “geek chic” aura around this condition is perverse because it’s been specifically created to label those who are genuinely disabled (at least in the sense of being able to function normally in the modern world – from the DSM-IV definition we have ” clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” and “restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities”).  It’s important to remember it’s an artificial set of criteria – people who don’t quite meet the full set may get the less glamorous label of PDD-NOS, or be described as having some autistic traits.  But “mild Asperger’s” is akin to describing cold feet as “mild frostbite and gangrene”. 

  6. Halloween_Jack says:

    I tend to prefer Sacks’ book An Anthropologist on Mars, as it gets away from the anecdotalism of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and delves more deeply into the lives of its subjects, really looking at how they experience consciousness differently; per the old computer ads, they really do “think different.” (IIRC, the book title comes from Temple Grandin’s self-description of feeling literally alienated among the neuro-typical. I also think that this was the book that brought Grandin to general public awareness.)

  7. There’s a university in Hampstead?

  8. self-propelled says:

    Regarding David’s question about non-pharmaceutical methods of inducing hallucinations, I recently listened to a relevant BBC radio programme (also featuring Dr Sacks) called “Hallucination: Through the Doors of Perception”. An expert in hallucinations called Dominic Ffytche fitted the presenter with a pair of goggles which flashed high-frequency bursts of light at his closed eyes, causing him to experience vivid, complex hallucinations which sounded very interesting. You can see a picture of the goggles here, although sadly the podcast is no longer available:

    I would have thought that an interested maker could whip up a pair of goggles if they were able to discover the correct frequency and brightness for the light. A bit like a modern Dreamachine?

Leave a Reply