Review of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat

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  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


This classic by the late Dr. Oliver Sacks offers a fascinating window into the surprising universe of brain function through in-depth case histories of patients living in the bizarre world of neurological disorders. He tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual aberrations: Patients who lost their memories and with them aspects of their past; patients who are no longer capable of recognizing people and common objects; patients suffering from violent tics; and patients who couldn’t acknowledge their own limbs, to cite only a few. The histories come alive through Sack’s insightful, sympathetic retelling and his ability to find common metaphors in even the most singular, deviant afflictions. He presents his patients’ neurological and sociological dysfunctions with keen intelligence, bottomless curiosity and remarkable compassion. As Sacks takes you into the another land, you may find that these tales of the neurologically impaired can offer you insights into yourself.

About the Author

An award-winning doctor and author, the late Oliver Sacks spent almost 50 years as a neurologist and wrote many books about his patients. The New York Times referred to him as “the poet laureate of medicine.


Recognizing Reality

Historically, Dr. Oliver Sacks explains, neurology and neuro-psychology focused on the study of cognitive functions mediated by the left hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere once – and unjustly so – was thought to house more primitive functions. Yet, its quite intricate mechanisms, while perhaps less obvious, mediate cognitive functions such as recognizing reality. Patients with right hemisphere syndromes find it difficult to understand their own problems, just as observers find it challenging to understand these patients’ inner workings. Sacks found that his neurological patients’ problems manifested in four categories:

1. “Losses”

Classical neurology sees the brain as a machine and a computer. But human mental processes are not merely abstract and mechanical, they are personal as well. These processes involve not only classifying and categorizing, but also judging and feeling. If any of these abilities are missing, a person becomes as computer-like as Dr. P., once a musician of distinction and a teacher at a local music school.

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