Oliver Sacks


British-American Neurologist, Naturalist and Author who explored the brain’s strangest pathways, best known for Movies: Awakenings, The Music Never Stopped, and At First Sight as well as for his Books: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, On the Move: A Life, and Musicophilia

Author Quotes

The lack of social support and sympathy is an additional trial: disabled, but with the nature of her disability not clear?she is not, after all, manifestly blind or paralyzed, manifestly anything?she tends to be treated as a phony or a fool.

The real functional machinery of the brain, for Edelman, consists of millions of neuronal groups, organized into larger units or maps. These maps, continually conversing in ever-changing, unimaginably complex, but always meaningful patterns, may change in minutes or seconds. One is reminded of C. S. Sherrington's poetic evocation of the brain as an enchanted loom, where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of sub-patterns.

There was in numbers and their relation something absolute, certain, not to be questioned, beyond doubt.

Thus it is awkward to call motion-sickness a migraine attack, but we may very conveniently term it a migranoid reaction, and note, in support of its affinities, that a large minority (almost 50 per cent, according to Selby and Lance) of adult migraine sufferers experienced severe motion-sickness in

We have five senses in which we glory and which we recognise and celebrate, senses that constitute the sensible world for us. But there are other senses ? secret senses, sixth senses, if you will ? equally vital, but unrecognised, and unlauded. These senses, unconscious, automatic, had to be discovered.

When I told my mother about them, she said she had similar attacks, and that they did no harm and lasted only a few minutes. With this, I started to look forward to my occasional attacks, wondering what might happen in the next one

Wystan?s departure affected me like a sudden darkness, the eclipse of all light and reality from the world. I knew him to be a man mortally ailing, and when he left [the U.S.] I mourned his death in advance. I suddenly realized what I had never properly avowed before, that he had been a beacon for me, a reality-bearer, so that his departure subtracted reality from my world? and there is a Wystan-shaped space which will never be filled.

I was half-afraid that I would do something awful, like faint or fart right in front of the queen, but all went well.

In his autobiography, What Mad Pursuit, he speaks of the difference between physics and biology:

It is with our faces that we face the world, from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Our age and our sex are printed on our faces. Our emotions, the open and instinctive emotions which Darwin wrote about, as well as the hidden or repressed ones which Freud wrote about, are displayed on our faces, along with our thoughts and intentions. Though we may admire arms and legs, breasts and buttocks, it is the face, first and last, which is judged beautiful in an aesthetic sense, fine or distinguished in a moral or intellectual sense. And, crucially, it is by our faces that we can be recognized as individuals. Our faces bear the stamp of our experiences and character; at forty, it is said, a man has the face he deserves. At

Medicine is always claims that the experiment is a test of its operations and thus Plato was right when he said that in order that one becomes a real doctor should have tested all the diseases that he hopes to be addressed and all the incidents and situations that Sachksa ... Sothag such a man, because the rest Arushdonna like the person who paints the sea, rocks and ports while sitting at his desk and ran his ship safely. Toss it

Music is... a fundamental way of expressing our humanity - and it is often our best medicine.

Of course, the brain is a machine and a computer?everything in classical neurology is correct. But our mental processes, which constitute our being and life, are not just abstract and mechanical, but personal, as well?and, as such, involve not just classifying and categorizing, but continual judging and feeling also.

People will make a life in their own terms, whether they are deaf or colorblind or autistic or whatever. And their world will be quite as rich and interesting and full as our world.

She hoped I would send her some of my papers on neurology, of which I?ll understand not one word, but will glow with loving pride at my ridiculous, brilliant and altogether delightful nephew.

The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other. It takes me to another place?irrespective of my subject?where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time. In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper. Only then do I realize that evening has come and that I have been writing all day. Over a lifetime, I have written millions of words, but the act of writing seems as fresh, and as much fun, as when I started it nearly seventy years ago.

The language of feeling, of the concrete, of image and symbol, formed a world she loved and, to a remarkable extent, could enter.

The rhythm of music is very, very important for people with Parkinson's. But it's also very important with other sorts of patients, such as patients with Tourette's syndrome. Music helps them bring their impulses and tics under control. There is even a whole percussion orchestra made up exclusively of Tourette's patients.

There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate - the genetic and neural fate - of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

Thus the feeling I sometimes have - which all of us who work closely with aphasiacs have - that one cannot lie to an aphasiac. He cannot grasp your words, and cannot be deceived by them; but what he grasps he grasps with infallible precision, namely the expression that goes with the words, the total, spontaneous, involuntary expressiveness which can never be simulated or faked, as words alone can, too easily.

We have seen that there are two forms of stimulus which are particularly prone to evoke migrainous reactions in predisposed individuals: inordinate excitations or arousals, and inordinate inhibitions or slumps. Within certain allowable limits (which vary greatly from person to person), the nervous system maintains itself in a region of equilibrium, homeostatically, by means of continuous, minor, insensible adjustments; beyond these limits, it may be forced to react by sudden, major, symptomatic adjustments.

When I visited Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., (it is the only university in the world for deaf and hearing-impaired students) and talked about the hearing impaired, one of the deaf students signed, Why don?t you look at yourself as sign impaired?4 It was a very interesting turning of the tables, because there were hundreds of students all conversing in sign, and I was the mute one who could understand nothing and communicate nothing, except through an interpreter.

X-rays allegedly showed the fragment moving around when Shostakovich moved his head, pressing against his ?musical? temporal lobe, when he tilted, producing an infinity of melodies which his genius could use.

I was on the shy side at school (one school report called me ?diffident?) and Braefield had added a special timidity, but when I had a natural wonder ? whether it was shrapnel from a bomb; or a piece of bismuth with its terraces of prisms resembling a miniature Aztec village; or my little bottle of arm-droppingly dense, sensorily stunning, Clerici solution; or gallium, which melted in the hand (I later got a mold, and made a teaspoon of gallium, which would shrink and melt as one stirred the tea with it) ? I lost all my diffidence, and freely approached others, all my fear forgotten.

In his book The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body, Steven Mithen takes this idea further, suggesting that music and language have a common origin, and that a sort of combined proto-music-cum-protolanguage was characteristic of the Neanderthal mind.62 This sort of singing language of meanings, without individual words as we understand them, he calls Hmmm (for holistic-mimetic-musical-multimodal)?and it depended, he speculates, on a conglomeration of isolated skills, including mimetic abilities and absolute pitch.

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British-American Neurologist, Naturalist and Author who explored the brain’s strangest pathways, best known for Movies: Awakenings, The Music Never Stopped, and At First Sight as well as for his Books: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, On the Move: A Life, and Musicophilia