oliver sacks

oliver sacks

image: Sara Krulwich, nytimes

adding page while reading on the move – recommend via Maria

ie: oh my… to 4700 ish… add sacks page

so much resonation w/last 7 yrs

notes highlights:

on the move

I wondered whether systems in the brain concerned with the perception (or projection) of meaning, significance, and intentionality, systems underlying a sense of wonder and mysteriousness, systems for appreciation of the beauty of art and science, had lost their balance in schizophrenia, producing a mental world overcharged with intense emotion and distortions of reality. These systems had lost their middle ground, it seemed, so that any attempt to titrate them, damp them down, could tip the person from a pathologically heightened state to one of great dullness, a sort of mental death.

cure.. self-talk as data.. curiosity.. ness… waking us all up..

thinking of Siddhartha‘s cancer ness and Jon‘s psychopath and shame ness

The Drug Enforcement Administration wanted me to fill out standardized inventories of symptoms and responses to the drug, but what was going on was so complex in both neurological and human terms that such inventories could not begin to accommodate the reality of what I was witnessing

yeah. that.

Almost every day, there were fertile, exciting discussions about the unprecedented events unfolding before us, which demanded unprecedented approaches from us all.

oh.. the alive ness of change. of deep enough ness.

I knew that I had been given the rarest of opportunities; I knew that I had something important to say, but I saw no way of saying it, of being faithful to my experiences, without forfeiting medical “publishability” or acceptance among my colleagues.

on seeing too much to not.. and.. on idiosyncrasies not/never yet embraced.

I never use one adjective if six seem to me better and, in their cumulative effect, more incisive.

slash slash ish ness

I realized, too late, that there were whole sides to her which I had known nothing about

danger of a single story ness

Some of the patients, of course, did not want to be filmed, but most of them felt it was important to show themselves as human beings who had been forced to dwell in a deeply strange world

yeah.. that.

quiet enough to see/hear..

The chief staff psychologist said that a well-organized and successful behavior modification program had been set up and that I was undermining this by my notions of “play” not conditional on external rewards or punishment.

Ed.. us.. perpetuate\ing not us ness

I don’t have a Department. I am not in a Department. I am a gypsy, and survive—rather marginally and precariously

what is a lab.. ie: all of us.. not definable.. not capture able.. unless we want to go back to sleep/death..

and now to 4700 ish – much to add..


A whole new way of thinking seemed to ray out from Zeki’s work, and it set me thinking of the possible neural basis for consciousness in a way I had never considered before—and to realize that with our new powers of imaging the brain and our newly developed abilities to record the activity of individual neurons in living and conscious brains, we might be able to plot how and where all sorts of experiences are “constructed.” This was an exhilarating thought. I realized the vast leap which neurophysiology had made since my own student days in the early 1950s, when it was beyond our power, almost beyond imagination, to *record from individual nerve cells in the brain while an animal was conscious, perceiving, and acting.

*record – self talk as data ness.. document everything .. as you live..


he said he would love to meet mr i, who would be able to tell him exactly what he was seeing or not seeing, unlike th emonkeys he worked with..

ralph though always in deep physiological terms, while neurologists, myself included, often content ourselves w/the phenomenology of brain disease or damage, with little thought of the precise mechanism involved and no thought at all of the ultimate question of how experience and consciousness emerged from brain activity. … the relationship of brain and mind..

la jolla had become the neuroscience capital of the world by 1995

2011 – raph died, far too young from brain cancer, at the age of 52. i miss him deeply, but like so many of my friends’ and mentors’ his voice has become an integral part of my thinking.

never just me.. ness


in 53 while at oxford, i read watson and crick’s famos double helix letter….it was only in 1962 when crick camee to san fran … that i started to realize the vast implications of double helix. crick’s talk was not on the configuration of dna but on work he had been doing with the molecular biologist..sydney brenner to determine how the sequence of dna bases could specify the amino acid sequence in proteins.… but clearly crick has already moved on to other things… to great enterprises : understanding the origin and nature of life, and understanding the relation of brain an d mind – in particular, the biological basis of consciousness. did he have an inkling, when he spoke to us in 1962 that these would be the very subjects he himself would address in the years to come, once he had ‘dealt with’ molecular biology, or at least taken it to the stage where it could be delegated to others..?

thinking two loop ness


click .. wanted stories of how vision might be altered by brain damage or disease….. writing to him a few days later.. i said that the experience as ‘a little like sitting next to an intellectual nuclear reactor.. i never had a feeling of such *incandescence….

*first convo w/ dave.. and imagining/longing for convos w others.. to the – such – degree

in the few minutes of a migraine aura, a flickering of static

frozen images in place of their normal, continuous visual perception.. he asked me whether such ‘cinematic vision’ as i called it was ever a *permanent condition or one that could be elicited in a predictable way so that it could be investigate. (i said i did not know.)

*dead (asleep) ness.. can’t we… notice/observe/investigate alive ness..


Only in the actual writing did I come to see how color might indeed be a (cerebro-mental) construct.” I had spent most of my professional life wedded to notions of “naive realism,” regarding visual perceptions, for example, as mere transcriptions of retinal images; this “positivist” view was the dominant one in my Oxford days. But now, as I worked with Mr. I., this was giving way to a very different vision of the brain-mind, a vision of it as essentially constructive or creative. I added that I had now started to wonder whether all perceptual qualities, including the perception of motion, were similarly constructed by the brain.

… the case of the colorblind painter.. crick loved it.. his responses… five pages.. bursting with ideas and suggestions.. wild speculation..

Even though, as you stress in your letter, it is not strictly a scientific article, nevertheless it has aroused much interest among my colleagues and my scientific and philosophical friends here.

i was very excited to think that crick was opening our paper, our case, for discussion in this way. it gave me a deeper sense of science as a communal enterprise, of scientists as fraternal, international community, sharing and thinking on each other’s work, and crick himself as a sort of hub, in touch with everyone in this neuroscientific world. … of course the most interesting feature, crick wrote:

mr i’s loss of the subjective sense of color, together with its absence in his eidetic imagination and in his dreams. This clearly suggests that a crucial part of the apparatus needed for these latter two phenomena is also needed for color perception. At the same time, his memory for color names and color associations remained completely intact.


three stages in early visual processing and speculated that mr i had sustained damage at one of these levels.. where cells would be particularly sensitive to lack of oxygen (perhaps caused by a small stroke or even carbon monoxide poisoning)

ralph and i mesmerized by crick’s letter. it seemed to get deeper and more suggestive everytime we read it, and we got the sense that it would need a decade or more of work to follow up on the torrent of suggestions crick had made.

the patient had lost color imagery but still dreamed in color. (she later regained her color vision


i think the moral of all this, crick concluded, is that only careful and extensive psychophysics on such a patient plus accurate localization of the damage will help us (so far, we cannot see how to study visual imagery and dreams in a monkey)


were they perhaps still awaiting an input

is that’s going on w/everything? we all have everything to some degree… just waiting on input to awake

i had found myself thinking of time—time and perception, time and consciousness, time and memory, time and music, time and movement. I had returned, in particular, to the question of whether the apparently continuous passage of time and movement given to us by our eyes was an illusion—whether in fact our visual experience consisted of a series of timeless “moments” which were then welded together by some higher mechanism in the brain. I found myself referring again to the “cinematographic” sequences of stills described to me by migraine patients and which I myself had on occasion experienced

when i mentioned to ralph … he said, you have to read crick and loch’s latest paper. they propose in it that visual awareness really consists of a sequence of ‘snapshots’ you are all thinking along the same lines


the creation of maps that respond selectively to certain elemental categories—for example, to movement or color in the visual world—may involve the synchronization of thousands of neuronal groups. Some mappings take place in discrete and anatomically fixed, pre-dedicated parts of the cerebral cortex, as is the case with color: color is constructed predominantly in the area called V4. But much of the cortex is plastic, pluripotent “real estate” that can serve (within limits) whatever function is needed; thus what would be auditory cortex in hearing people may be reallocated for visual purposes in congenitally deaf people, just as what is normally visual cortex may be used for other sensory functions in the congenitally blind

every perception is an act of creation – elelman


The players are connected. Each player, interpreting the music individually, constantly modulates and is modulated by the others. There is no final or “master” interpretation; the music is collectively created, and every performance is unique. This is Edelman’s picture of the brain, as an orchestra, an ensemble, but without a conductor, an orchestra which makes its own music.

when i walked back to my hotel.. after diner with gerry… i found myself in a sort of rapture… i had the feeling of having been liberated from decades of epistemological despair – from a world of shallow, irrelevant computer analogies into one full of reich biological meaning, one which corresponded with the reality of brain and mind. edelman’s theory was the first truly global theory of mind and consciousness, the first biological theory of individuality and autonomy.


becoming this particular cow was made possible by experience selecting particular neuronal groups in its brain and amplifying their activity.


Individuality is deeply imbued in us from the very start, at the neuronal level. Even at a motor level, researchers have shown, an infant does not follow a set pattern of learning to walk or how to reach for something. Each baby experiments with different ways of reaching for objects and over the course of several months discovers or selects his own motor solutions

Similar considerations arise with regard to recovery and rehabilitation after strokes and other injuries. There are no rules; there is no prescribed path of recovery; every patient must discover or create his own motor and perceptual patterns, his own solutions to the challenges that face him; and it is the function of a sensitive therapist to help him in this


it was as if she – and england – were saying, you have done useful, honorable work. come home. all is forgiven.


this (cancer in eye) would have been hard to bear… had i not become fascinated by some of the visual phenomena which occurred as, bit by bit, my retina- and eyesight – were nibbled away by the tumor and the lasering…my brain was clearly as involved as the eye itself.

on treating all my ailments as experiment.. helped me endure


I documented all this in minute detail—my melanoma journals ran to ninety thousand words—and studied it, performing perceptual experiments of all sorts. The whole experience, like my “leg” experience, became an experimentum suitatis, an experiment with, or on, myself

document everything and everything as experiment..

good too for difficult relationships… notice the unlikely.. seek out the other stories (danger of single story law)


the perceptual consequences of my eye damage constituted a fertile ground of enquiry; i felt as if i were discovering a whole world of strange phenomena, a… but the sense of discovery was exhilarating and kept me going through what might otherwise have been rather fearful and demoralizing years, as didi my continuing seeing patients and writing..


My journals are not written for others, nor do I usually look at them myself, but they are a special, indispensable form of talking to myself.

self talk as data…


act of writing… takes me to another place.. where i am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time.


2 min video (and image above) – from ny times


his bearing witness is what he wants to be remembered for… to be in it himself


Oliver Sacks: On Robin Williams and the Brain (Feb 23, 1995) | Charlie Rose

i want to know what all of my patients experience… i want to dive in and experience myself if i can

the way in which the brain embodies the self


on big think.. a brain that can’t hear music



Leading the Mind: An Evening with Oliver Sacks (2007)

The essence of leadership is based on empowering individuals, organizations and societies to forgo the status quo and find new ways to solve complex challenges. Dr. Sacks will explore the mysteries of the mind based on his four-decade journey where he has encountered an unshakable human capacity in the face of seemingly insurmountable forces. In his newest book, *Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Dr. Sacks investigates the power of music to move us, to heal and to haunt us.

*on hold on overdrive – thanks library  – musicophilia

4 min – on pinker – saying music is useless… i disagree. i think most of us have a real need for music…

7 min – absolute amusia – can’t recognize music

10 min – it’s not good to be accused…

12 min – how can you be deaf to music and nothing else… this is the state of amusia… there is like 30 parts of the brain involved w/ music

13 min – on hearing it was neurological (instead of fraud/emotional) … which made it morally ok

16 min – gotfried shlague – work on music on brain

please don’t photo me…distracting.. i prefer to be a voice..

18 min – even if people aren’t moving to music.. motor parts of brain working…. it’s not clear that any non human animal is moved in the same way

19 min – can’t look at a brain and say.. this is a brain of a writer/mathematician.. et al.. but you can look at a brain and say.. this is probably the brain of a musician.. even w/a naked eye… shows power of music and plasticity of brain... even a yr of intensive training will alter brain considerably…

20 min – once musical networks are set up.. they are very robust… and even in something like adv alzheimer’s disease… responding to music… stays almost till the end

24 min – he didn’t have facts.. but he had acts… procedural memory invested in primitive parts of brain… so those parts remain.. a treasure house.. a bank.. where all sorts of procedures can be locked away.. available for life….

actor.. very lost in daily life.. but repertoire all available.. look and feel virtually normal

memory will come like a rope let down from heaven… woody becomes himself in performance….

26 min – music therapy is crucial for many sorts of patients…

27 min – woody and emerson – i’ve lost all my faculties.. but i’m very well…

30 min – poet.. wh orden – quoting (?) – every disease is a musical problem and every cure is a musical solution… almost too pat to be true but seemed to nail it with these parkinsonians.. music substitutes for the basil ganglia.. for a little while..

31 min – restoring speech/language to people who have ephasia.. from strokes or whatever… many are mute… but can sing… shows.. language is still there… so can they dis embed it from the music… music made as great re organization of the brain

33 min – not so good power of music – all of us have tunes running through our head..  the tunes which play in ones head.. may be stimulated by sight/memory/mood… usually has some meaning.. or may go w/some activity.. ie: for me.. swimming.. i start counting then turns to strauss waltz… music is counting .. but counting unconsciously..

sometimes it’s mysterious and have to go to analyst to find out why it’s in your head..

35 min – our brains very disposed to music/musical imagery.. and sometimes this becomes pathological… looping…

37 min – getting trap inside the tune of a song… ie: his friend did for 10 days…

38 min – esp exploited in tv shows.. to hook people and render the brain helpless..

39 min – imagery can activate the brain in the same way as perception

40 min – today bombarded w/music everywhere.. can’t turn off your ears… i have mixed feelings about ipods… the power of it.. but the danger of the music being too load.. esp if being used to blot out the environment… ie: juvenile deafness… in ny 90% of people look as if hallucinating..

42 min – ear worms are universal.. has to do w/susceptibility of brain.. not rare.. musical hallucinations…

47 min – i think about 80-90% of people w/musical hallucinations have moderately severe deafness… will come on w/further loss of hearing.. analogy to visual hallucinations occur w/people losing sight.. or olfactory w/losing sense of smell… you can’t have a vacancy in the brain.. has to be filled w/something…

48 min – people get scared.. they are schizo.. but not the same…

50 min – i wonder w/ increasing deafness and all this noise around.. if we’ll be having more hallucinations..

some may have epileptic seizures produced by music

54 min – prior to 1970 nearly no music in neurology..


link twitter

Honoring the life and work of Dr. Oliver Sacks, working to increase understanding of the brain and mind and to end the stigma of mental illness.


wikipedia small

Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE, FRCP (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was a British neurologist, naturalist and author who spent his professional life in the United States. He felt that the brain was the “most incredible thing in the universe” and therefore important to study. He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about his patients’ disorders, with some of his books adapted for film and stage.

Sacks was the author of numerous best-selling books, mostly collections of case studies of people with neurological disorders. His writings have been featured in a wide range of media; the New York Times called him a “poet laureate of contemporary medicine”, and “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century”. His books included a wealth of narrative detail about his experiences with patients, and how they coped with their conditions, often illuminating how the normal brain deals with perception, memory and individuality.

Awakenings (1973), an autobiographical account of his efforts to help people with encephalitis lethargicaregain proper neurological function, was adapted into the Academy Award-nominated film in 1990, starringRobin Williams and Robert De Niro.


awakening indispensable people.. ness… energy\ness

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

for (blank)’s sake

a nother way


as i finished Sacks’ book

Turns out there’s a guy with an IQ of 126 and 5% or 10% of normal brain mass rifters.com/crawl/?p=6116 something amazing can be learned here

On a somewhat less peer-reviewed note, VNBs also get routinely trotted out by religious nut jobs who cite them as evidence that a God-given soul must be doing all those things the uppity scientists keep attributing to the brain. ..

And yet, 126 IQ. Virtually no brain. In my darkest moments of doubt, I wondered if they might be right.

So on and off for the past twenty years, I’ve lain awake at night wondering how a brain the size of a poodle’s could kick my ass at advanced mathematics. I’ve wondered if these miracle freaks might actually have the same brain mass as the rest of us, but squeezed into a smaller, high-density volume by the pressure of all that cerebrospinal fluid (apparently the answer is: no). While I was writing Blindsighthaving learned that cortical modules in the brains of autistic savants are relatively underconnected, forcing each to become more efficient— I wondered if some kind of network-isolation effect might be in play.

Now, it turns out the answer to that is: Maybe


The authors advocate research into “Computational models such as the small-world and scale-free network”— networks whose nodes are clustered into highly-interconnected “cliques”, while the cliques themselves are more sparsely connected one to another. De Oliveira et al suggest that they hold the secret to the resilience of the hydrocephalic brain. Such networks result in “higher dynamical complexity, lower wiring costs, and resilience to tissue insults.” This also seems reminiscent of those isolated hyper-efficient modules of autistic savants, which is unlikely to be a coincidence: networks from social to genetic to neural have all been described as “small-world”.


The point, though, is that under the right conditions, brain damage may paradoxically result in brain enhancement. Small-world, scale-free networking— focused, intensified, overclockedmight turbocharge a fragment of a brain into acting like the whole thing.


Maybe you don’t have to tweak genes or interface brains with computers to make the next great leap in cognitive evolution. Right now, right here in the real world, the cognitive function of brain tissue can be boosted— without engineering, without augmentation— by literal orders of magnitude. All it takes, apparently, is the right kind of stress.

small world network


on the move and Oliver via Maria.:



Encephalitis Lethargica Awakenings Oliver Sacks with text

he has drawn millions of people into worlds they might have shunned..

she said, i’ve been a spectator for the last 43 years..

i didn’t realize there would be a resurrection in the summer of 69.. or how grim it would be afterwards

a message of survival.. that one can go through and be in hell and yet survive.. as tough…funnly.. loving life.. even if no hope in ordinary sense..

starting around 1917.. sleeping sickness epidemic.. leaving almost 5 million people dead. in 1927 essentially disappeared.. although many institutions had to be built just to house all the living victims that were left permanently damaged…


awakenings trailer (w/robin):


via Maria – short film – unmoored, th elost mariner- inspires by Oliver’s the man who mistook his wife for a hat


“My work, my life, is all with the sick — but the sick and their sickness drives me to thoughts which, perhaps, I might otherwise not have,


“The Lost Mariner,” which Dr. Sacks opens with an epigraph from the great Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel:

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all… Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.


notes/highlights from musicophilia



Watch this and have a little cry. God knows, I did. The last ever interview with Oliver Sacks: ideas.ted.com/first-look-the…

The last ever interview with Dr Oliver Sacks

when people die.. they cannot be replaced.. each one unique


remembering oliver.. via maria


To commemorate this irreplaceable man, I asked artist Debbie Millman to create a piece of art illustrating the passage that captures not only the heart of that heartening story, but the spirit in which Dr. Sacks inhabited and exited our world.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 6.45.50 PM.png

image links to print


june 2016 – world science festival – Awakening the Mind: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Oliver Sacks


one of beautiful things about living w someone w dementia.. it’s all in the now. & the moment becomes transcendent -on @OliverSacks #WSF16

on @OliverSacks ‘ piano lessons at 75. he played everything staccato & forte. amazed at his perseverance w great physical obstacles #WSF16

Now witnessing how music affects brain #WSFlive #WSF16

how to reach people that seemed otherwise unreachable. (1995) music therapy to form dialogues – on @OliverSacks work – #WSF16

observation is a very important part of science. observers are the leaders. @OliverSacks was a great observer. – @DrTempleGrandin #wsf16

he ( @OliverSacks ) was open to being surprised – #WSF16 livestream.com/WorldScienceFe…

he’s this patron saint of this way of treating human beings. – @brainpicker on @OliverSacks #WSF16 livestream.com/WorldScienceFe…

i just fell in love w/way he sees world. he saw people in way increasingly counter by how seen today – @brainpicker on @OliverSacks #WSF16

he ( @OliverSacks ) had crazy eyes for seeing. he could consume all kinds of info easily. #wsf16 livestream.com/WorldScienceFe…

big elephant in room whole life until made aware of @OliverSacks ‘s writings. reassured me i didn’t have to be ashamed – #WSF16

he ( @OliverSacks )’s made observations others hadn’t seen – #WSF16 livestream.com/WorldScienceFe…

his ( @OliverSacks )’s whisper was: don’t miss this. the journey to death need not diminish our curiosity. patients do best research #WSF16

we were friends because i have a disability. he ( @OliverSacks ) found interesting the uninteresting things in my life. – #WSF16

how @OliverSacks was able to take in any extraneous info #WSF16

he ( @oliversacks) was definitely in love with water – swim coach #WSF16

1000s journals. rarely look at them. not written for others. form of talking to self. integral part of my mental life. @OliverSacks #WSF16

Oliver was able to expand the reach of the neighborhood, to include the excluded. – friends talking about

i love him.. and i don’t think i’m alone in that.. thank you

never seen a man getting closer and closer to death as his eyes got wider and wider open – @OliverSacks #WSF16

J Baldwin: poet as only one who knows what it’s like to be here – @OliverSacks was that kind of poet. – @brainpicker #wsf16



Oliver Sacks’ last interview. Dig the sweet 1894 Bechstein grand piano—his dad’s—in bckgrnd vimeo.com/160629469

find own path, live own life..

Oliver Sacks on playing the piano: webofstories.com/play/oliver.sa…

can’t appreciate unless you play..  you can love/swoon.. but have to play to appreciate



The books that shaped @OliverSacks‘s mind and spirit brainpickings.org/2016/02/11/oli…

#121 – oxford dictionary – for me the most coveted and desirable book in the world. I was to read the entire dictionary through when I went on to medical school, and I still like to take a volume off the shelf, now and then, for bedtime reading


the music instinct (d0c)


love letters – from *insominiac city by bill hayes (@BillHayesNYC)

*want to read


I just want to enjoy your nextness and nearness

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could dream together?

you create the need which you fill, the hunger you sate.

Over dinner, O talking about his late friend Gaj — Carleton Gajdusek, a Nobel laureate in medicine — with great excitement and conviction, comparing him to Goethe, of whom it was said, O tells me, “He had a nature. A nature.”

I thought I knew what O meant — O, who has always disliked being pigeonholed, typed, as simply one thing or another, doctor or writer, gay or not, Jewish or atheist, etc. — but I wasn’t completely sure and prodded him.

“A nature,” he repeated, as if that was the only way to say it. “He wasn’t this or that, fitted with so many labels, an ‘identity,’ like people today, but all aspects of him were of a piece — this is who he was, not what he was; a force of nature, I suppose.

I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting life

Every day, we may wake up and say, What’s the point? Why go on? And, there is really only one answer: To be alive. – bill

bill: [http://www.billhayes.com/about-bill-hayes/] – 56.. oliver 82 in 2015.. 26 yrs… labels/pigeonholes/id


This @Radiolab story on @OliverSacks is everything. https://t.co/oqNc9UzKu6

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/brainpicker/status/927618588789411841

Oliver died in 2015, but before he passed he and his partner Bill Hayes, in an effort to preserve some of Oliver’s thoughts on his work and his life, bought a little tape recorder. Over a year and half after Oliver’s death, Bill dug up the recorder and turned it on. Through snippets of conversation with Bill, and in moments Oliver recorded whispering to himself as he wrote, we get a peek inside the head, and the life, of one of the greatest science essayists of all time

8 min – here’s a man with huge vocab.. and everyday.. wanting to look up new words

14 min – we’d been together 6 yrs.. i knew him quite well.. yet i’d never seen him quite focused..

20 min – every mishearing is a surprising concoction..

21 min – my mishearings..


the animated mind of oliver sacks (doc).. 1 min clip: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rJN3vR0_1s]




his 2009 ted – [https://www.ted.com/talks/oliver_sacks_what_hallucination_reveals_about_our_minds/transcript]

seeing w brain is often called imagination.. we’re familiar w the landscapes of our imagination.. we’ve lived w them all our lives..but there are also hallucinations as well.. and hallucinations are completely diff.. they don’t seem to be of our creation.. don’t seem to be under control.. they seem to come from the outside.. and to mimic perception..

17 min – charles bonnet – wondered how the theatre of the mind could be generated by the machinery of the brain.. 250 yrs later beginning to have a glimpse how this is done


via maria‘s figuring:


sacks: ‘some patients i could help w drugs, and some w hr magic of attention and interest. the most severely afflicted patients defeated my therapeutic endeavors until i started to enquire minutely and persistently into their emotional lives. it now became apparent to me that many migraine attacks were drenched in emotional significance, and could not be usefully considered, let alone treated, unless their emotional antecedents and effects were exposed in detail.. i thus found it necessary to employ a sort of continuous double vision, simultaneously envisaging migraine as a structure whose forms were implicit in the repertoire of the nervous system, and a strategy which might be employed to any emotional or indeed biological end’

in his foundational treatise on migraines, sacks argued for darwinian basis of the interplay between emotions and the body in chronic headaches darwin had described an alt reaction some organisms have to the classify fight flight instinct – a response of immobilization and paralysis in the face of threat – and had contrasted these two modes as ‘active fear (terror)’ and ‘passive fear (dread)’.. migraines, sacks argues, evolved from the latter response mech and ‘have become w the elaboration of human nervous systems and human needs, progressively differentiated and refined’


sacks on libraries – everything in its place – via maria: https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/05/01/oliver-sacks-everything-in-its-place-libraries/

it was there (library 5 min away) i received my real ed

On the whole, I disliked school, sitting in class, receiving instruction; information seemed to go in one ear and out the other. I could not be passive — I had to be active, learn for myself, learn what I wanted, and in the way that suited me best. I was not a good pupil, but I was a good learner, and in the Willesden library — and all the libraries that came later — I roamed the shelves and stacks, had the freedom to select whatever I wanted, to follow paths that fascinated me, to become myself. At the library I felt free — free to look at the thousands, tens of thousands, of books; free to roam and to enjoy the special atmosphere and the quiet companionship of other readers, all, like myself, on quests of their own.

Though the library was quiet, whispered conversations might start in the stacks — two of you, perhaps, were searching for the same old book, the same bound volumes of Brain from 1890 — and conversations could lead to friendships. All of us in the library were reading our own books, absorbed in our own worlds, and yet there was a sense of community, even intimacy.

even better. curiosity as connection.. everyday .. in the city (as library).. as the day..


his own life (doc)

Trailer for His Own Life – the fantastic documentary about the visionary neurologist and poetic soul @OliverSacks https://t.co/ewMTR4kWkK I had the improbable joy of seeing the film when it premiered in New York, and now it is premiering online – do give yourself the treat.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/brainpicker/status/1317797830287888385

I just watched the Oliver Sacks documentary and was profoundly moved to write. He was one gifted person, grounded in compassion. https://t.co/TTof2bCPVy
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/AllegraJordan1/status/1320173926518083584

treat the person rather than the disease

where do you go when your mother calls you an abomination.. you go to san fran and stop writing home..

my brother became schizo.. i became terrified for him.. much of my life has been trying to imagine what it’s like being another human being..

people who are left out were storied back into the world

people think he’s saying.. look at the others.. he’s not saying that.. he’s saying .. look at us