Have you ever seen something that wasn't really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing? Hallucinations don't belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see ...
Have you ever seen something that wasn't really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing? Hallucinations don't belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of colour to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting 'visits' from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one's own body. Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them. As a young doctor in California in the 1960s, Oliver Sacks had both a personal and a professional interest in psychedelics. These, along with his early migraine experiences, launched a lifelong investigation into the varieties of hallucinatory experience. Here, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture's folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.
Publishers Weekly, 2012-08-13 We think of seeing-or hearing, smelling, touching or inchoately sensing-things that aren't there as a classic sign of madness, but it's really a human commonplace, according to Sacks's latest fascinating exploration of neuropsychiatric weirdness. Acclaimed neurologist Sacks (The Mind's Eye) investigates a wide range of hallucinations, from the geometric zigzags of some migraines and the painful cramps of phantom limbs to florid multicharacter melodramas, grotesque phantasms, and mystic trances induced by brain disorders and drugs. He also studies how people live with their hallucinations; some recognize them as just diverting figments while for others they constitute an inescapable unreality as malevolent and terrifying as a horror movie. (Sacks amply recounts his own entertaining hallucinations, including a drug-induced encounter with a spider who talked to him about Bertrand Russell.) As always, Sacks approaches the topic as both a brain scientist and a humanist; he shows how hallucinations elucidate intricate neurological mechanisms-often they are the brain's bizarre attempt to fill in for missing sensory input-and examines their imprint on folklore and culture. (Dostoyevski's fiction, he theorizes, is marked by the ecstatic religious trances induced by his epilepsy.) Writing with his trademark mix of evocative description, probing curiosity, and warm empathy, Sacks once again draws back the curtain on the mind's improbable workings. Agent: The Wylie Agency. (Nov. 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly, 2013-02-25 Olive Sacks sets himself a challenging task in his latest book: to explore the full range of human hallucinations, those figments of the imagination that terrify, madden, comfort, or merely entertain. Drawing on famous cases, from Joan of Arc to Dostoyevski, Sacks charts a diverse and pervasive phenomenon, one rich in colorful examples caused by trauma, drugs, illnesses, the mind's deterioration, or boredom and the absence of stimuli. The scope of human hallucinations Sacks presents is staggering for its range, myriad causes, and levels of severity. Some hallucinations are little more than distractions: an imagined song in place of silence, a conversation with an absent friend, a light sense of deja vu. For others hallucinations create the fabric of the world in which they live, with the often-frightening images overwhelming reality. The solid performance of Dan Woren, whose business-like narration is the one constant throughout, keeps the listener grounded even during the book's most fantastic passages. Woren offers a brisk reading that when paired with the author's elegant prose guides listeners safely on a long and surreal journey through fantasy and nightmare. A Knopf hardcover. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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