Monday, May 30, 2011

The man who mistook his wife for a hat - Oliver Sacks

Interesting read. For one thing, the area of neurology is something I find completely fascinating, and this book covers a lot of ground in terms of case studies covering various diseases/ syndromes which actually give a tantalising glimpse into what could be the miracle called the brain.

What gives us individuality? What makes me uniquely me ? How are my memories stored ? How do I process them? What gives me my 'perspective' ?

Some of these questions had come up in 'phantoms in the brain' which I'd read some time back.  In terms of writing, I found this one rather harder to read, what with its constant forays into religiousity and abstract humanity et al. However the way that he has captured the essense of each of the cases is just awe inspiring.

What if your body is functioning fine, but your brain little connector breaks off - what if you can't recognise your hand anymore? What if you can't form new memories any more ( yes rather better known thanks to 50 first dates, memento etc). What if you couldn't recognise tones / inflexions, if the words were all you recognised?

As the realisation of the possibility of these deficits builds up, the next section covers excesses. Rather than an ability being lost, what if you gained an excess of one? What if your sense of smell suddenly became as acute as a dogs?( an actual case) What if you could remember each day of your life, every moment, in complete clarity? ( another case).

Its the sort of thing, that leaves you pondering for quite a while. What exactly goes on in that little brain of ours??


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