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Hallucinations

Sacks, Oliver W.

(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Hallucinations
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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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 0307957241
9780307402172
9780307957245
Branch Call Number: 616.89 SACKS
Characteristics: xiv, 326 p. ; 22 cm

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Jan 19, 2014
  • delfon rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

<http://www.oliversacks.com>.
Another using the same genre, lots of sesquipedalians, lots of real life examples and lots of relevances.
We learn various ways hallucinations can erupt, their kinds, and acceptance by the patients involved. we are also treated to historical anecdotes. However, surprisingly, references are especially suspicious; mainly because, many are from the mid to late 19th century,. In fact, its the last few decades that neuroscience has captured and expanded interest.
Some exaggerations in defining a hallucination, it seems to me. But otherwise an informative, enlightening read for most part.

Andrew Solomon wrote: "Oliver Sacks relates fascinating case histories and he writes fluently, but he treats his subjects with a tinge of the ringmaster’s bravado — an underlying tone of, 'Hey, if you think that’s weird, wait until you get a load of this one!' It is possible to have clinical rigor without such voyeuristic emotional deficits." As a popular science writer, Sacks patronizes the reader by omitting science and analysis. One of the goals seems to be to treat hallucinations as physical rather than psychological events, yet there is no discussion of neurological or biological causes. Psychological causes of some hallucinations on this list are almost completely ignored except in obvious comments like "a child may create an imaginary friend because he is lonely." The aim seems to be to distance hallucinations from the stigma of mental illness, not to destigmatize mental illness. The subtext seems to be to reassure himself and the reader that hallucinations don’t mean we/he is mentally ill. This book is organized as a list of types, without making any connection between the categories. Granted, this is a popular work. Some anecdotes would be fine, but there is almost no discussion of mechanisms – this isn’t popular science, there is no science. For a doctor, he seems remarkably uninterested in cause and effect and cure. Even for popular science writing, the basic terminology is pretty sloppy. All kinds of terms are interchangeably used for "hallucination," like “visions.”

Sep 26, 2013
  • Stratified_nomad rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

While the subject matter is fascinating this book consists almost entirely of examples and case studies, with very limited analysis and explanation. It seems to me the opposite approach would have been more compelling; I would much rather understand the physiological causes of hallucinations, that reading countless examples of them. While his accounts are often interesting, eventually this approach becomes tedious and cursory.

Seeing, hearing, smelling, or touching things that aren't there isn't normal, right? Maybe not, but it's hardly uncommon. In fact, according to neurologist Oliver Sacks, there are many reasons that people might be deceived by their own senses. Some hallucinations are temporary, the result of substance abuse, injury, or sensory deprivation. Others are symptomatic of underlying conditions or disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson's, or even Charles Bonnet Syndrome (in which memories fill the gaps left by the parts of the brain responsible for vision). In this intriguing collection of case studies, Sacks examines real-life hallucinations, past and present, from Dostoyevsky's epileptic visions to the author's own experiments with drugs -- which resulted in a conversation with a spider about mathematician Betrand Russell.

Nature and Science newsletter December 2012
http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=581853

Dec 18, 2012
  • emily8 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

terrific piece of work - very readable, well footnoted with wonderful quotes and stories of things seen... a great mix of anecdotes and science - you won't be disappointed...

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