The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat
A review of

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat

And Other Clinical Tales

Oliver SacksTouchstone • 1998

Wild Wild Minds

by David Meyer

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.

Dr. Oliver Sacks – who practiced neurology for more than 50 years – explains that neurology and neuropsychology historically focused on the study of cognitive functions mediated by the left hemisphere of the brain. Medicine once – unjustly – regarded the right hemisphere as the home of more primitive functions. Its intricate mechanisms, while perhaps less obvious than those of the left hemisphere, mediate cognitive functions, such as recognizing reality. Patients with right hemisphere syndromes find it difficult to understand their own problems, as observers find it challenging to understand these patients’ inner workings.


Classical neurology sees the brain as a machine and a computer. Human mental processes involve classifying categorizing, judging and feeling. If someone loses any of these abilities, he or she becomes as computer-like as the man in one of Sacks’s case studies, Dr. P., a musician and teacher.

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