Hallucinations

Hallucinations

Book - 2012
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This book is 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. Have you ever seen something that was not 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 of animals and people. 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 color 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, the author 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, he 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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
Edition: 1st American ed.
ISBN: 9780307957245
0307957241
Characteristics: xiv, 326 p. ; 22 cm.

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IndyPL_SteveB Mar 16, 2019

The works of Oliver Sacks are standard works for anyone interested in the workings of the human brain. But they are entertaining and enlightening for most of us. The most interesting aspect of his writing is the way he uses odd brain states to speculate on what they tell us about the workings of the normal brain – if there is any meaning to the word “normal.”

“Hallucinations” are things we sense (see, hear, feel, smell, etc.) while we are awake that no one else perceives to be there. If you asked most people what they think “hallucination” means, they assume that it refers to someone who is schizophrenic or on illegal drugs. But Sacks points out that there are many other conditions which cause hallucinations. Nearly all of us may have some experience in our life which qualifies for that definition. Epilepsy, migraine headaches, brain tumors, concussions, strokes, or other forms of brain injury typically cause visions and distortions of reality, from flashing lights to visions of people appearing before us. Even more common are the brief aural or visual hallucinations that most of us have one time or another just as we are falling asleep or waking up. This might include hearing someone call your name or someone seeming to be beside you in the bed, when the house is actually empty.

Fascinating writing and a key to our understanding of being human.

m
MattCraw
Nov 14, 2017

Fascinating exploration of mind states and its effects on consciousness.

d
delfon
Jan 19, 2014

<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.

g
GroundSuppression
May 07, 2013

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.”

ChristchurchLib Dec 18, 2012

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

emily8 Dec 18, 2012

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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