January 17, 2007


I’m totally obsessed by Dr. Sacks.

I do not like green eggs and ham,
I do not like them Sam-I-Am
I do not like them with a fox,
I do not like them in a box,
I do not like them here or there,
I do not like them anywhere!

No, no, you’re thinking of Dr. Seuss silly. But that’s fun too!

I’m talking about the neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. He studies disorders that stem from the nervous system (anything from stuttering, to autism, blindness and Parkinson’s disease). What is particularly interesting about Dr. Sacks is that he always studies a person as a whole instead of as a person suffering from a set of disorders. His books are packed with detailed case studies that also detail talk a patient’s family, social life, and general outlook on things. In addition, he is also very inquisitive and shares this with his reader. When talks about deafness for example, he briefs his reader about the history of deafness and deaf schools, references to the deafness in literature, corrects misconceptions on deafness and explains how the deaf community interacts with hearing individuals.

But the best part of his books is when he talks about those patients for whom there is no cure. Instead, he talks about how the patient has used the disorder as strength and not a limitation.
  • Take the case of young man whose sense of balance has so deteriorated, that he often fell flat on his face. He decided to add little water-levels in his glasses so he could monitor his angle respective to the ground.
  • Or the story of Temple Grandin, a woman born with a mild from of autism (also called Asperger’s syndrome). She finds it incredibly hard to relate to other people and has to carefully study people in order to understand how they feel. She often feels like she’s An Anthropologist on Mars (this is also a book title of Dr. Sacks'). On the other hand, she has a keen sense of how animals feel, has a PhD in animal behavior, and is a well-published author.
  • He also talks about a young man who slowly becomes blind due to a tumor growing in his brain. But the strange thing is that he has no idea that he is blind and is convinced that he can still see. He quickly becomes a buddha-like figure to the other hospital patients who appreciate his calm sense of understanding.
  • A man has a particularly rare neurological disorder that prevents him from recognizing people's face and objects. He once tries to pick up his wife and place her on his head, temporarly confused by her brown hair matching his brown suede hat (The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat).
  • Martha’s Vineyard’s used to have large deaf population. As a result, almost everybody was fluent in signing. The hearing elders can still be heard and seen conversing with each other in both speech and sign language.

Intrigued? Start reading The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. You won't regret it, I promise!

[Note: this is not a paid advertisment. Though if you wanted to pay me for this, that'd be OK too]


Victoria said...

Sooooo cool! You know, I didn't even get to work that into my interview yesterday.
I think I was maybe a bit too ready?

Anonymous said...

I like how you specify that you weren't paid to advertise the book :). It sounds really interesting, I've added it to my "to read" list.

Anonymous said...

That is very cool. Apparently Dr Sacks has no sense of direction and often gets lost trying to get home...