Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks
Thoughts: It’s been a while since I read this one; I remember finding it very engaging.
(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)
Sacks, Oliver. 2012. Hallucinations. Alfred A. Knopf.
- Ch. 1: Charles Bonnet Syndrome: Hallucinations, ranging from simple to complex, often found in people with degenerating eyesight. People with CBS are aware that what they are hallucinating isn’t real.
- 43: mentioned: Michael Shermer (of Skeptic Society fame)’s book The Believing Brain
- 54: Stanford study where healthy “pseudo” patients walked up to hospitals, claiming to hear voices saying “hollow”, “thud”, etc. All admitted and treated for multiple weeks - David Rosenham 1973 “On Being Sane in Insane Places”
- 73: compared to visual hallucinations, in which aspects of a visual scene can be multiplied, distorted, etc., musical hallucinations are interesting in that we apprehend (and hallucinate) a musical piece as a whole.
- Ch. 7: Migraines: often include visual auras - caused by a wave of electrical excitement moving across the brain. When orientation-sensitive neurons are stimulated, it causes the person to “see” bars of light at different angles.
- 131: through hallucinations such as these, we can see how a bunch of living neurons interact, self-organize; patterns of emergence
- 131: such patterns may explain universal interest in patterns - geometric shapes finding their way into different cultures’ art
- 160: epilepsy can lead to intense religious experiences. “It takes a strong (and skeptical) person to resist such hallucinations and to refuse them either credence or obedience.”
- 249-250: Use of spiritual exercises - e.g. in Evangelical Christianity - people practice imagining sensory detail during prayer. Eventually, “the mind leaps from imagination to hallucination, and the congregant hears God, sees God.”
- 277: “the near universality of phantom limbs after amputations, the immediacy of their appearance, and their identity with the corporeal limbs in whose stead they appear suggests that, in some sense, they are already in place—revealed, so to speak, by the act of amputation.”
Posted: July 24, 2022. Last updated: July 24, 2022.