The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical by Oliver Sacks

By Oliver Sacks

In his such a lot remarkable booklet, "one of the good scientific writers of the twentieth century" (The manhattan Times) recounts the case histories of sufferers misplaced within the extraordinary, it seems that inescapable global of neurological issues. Oliver Sacks's The guy Who Mistook His spouse for a Hat tells the tales of people bothered with superb perceptual and highbrow aberrations: sufferers who've misplaced their stories and with them the larger a part of their pasts; who're now not in a position to realize humans and customary items; who're afflicted with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs became alien; who've been brushed aside as retarded but are proficient with uncanny creative or mathematical skills.
If inconceivably unusual, those marvelous stories stay, in Dr. Sacks's fabulous and sympathetic telling, deeply human. they're reviews of existence suffering opposed to extraordinary adversity, they usually permit us to go into the realm of the neurologically impaired, to visualize with our hearts what it needs to be to reside and suppose as they do. an exceptional healer, Sacks by no means loses sight of medicine's final accountability: "the ache, troubled, battling human subject."

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For normal man, in normal situations, they simply do not exist. Yet their absence can be quite conspicuous. If there is defective (or distorted) sensation in our overlooked secret senses, what we then experience is profoundly strange, an almost incommunicable equivalent to being blind or being deaf. If proprioception is completely knocked out, the body becomes, so to speak, blind and deaf to itself—and (as the meaning of the Latin root proprius hints) ceases to ‘own’ itself, to feel itself as itself (see Chapter Three, ‘The Disembodied Lady’).

It seems clear that intelligence, as such, plays no part in the matter—that the sole and essential thing is use. Such cases of developmental agnosia may be rare, but one commonly sees cases of acquired agnosia, which illustrate the same fundamental principle of use. Thus I frequently see patients with a severe ‘glove-and-stocking’ neuropathy, so-called, due to diabetes. If the neuropathy is sufficiently severe, patients go beyond feelings of numbness (the ‘glove-and-stocking’ feeling), to a feeling of complete nothingness or de-realization.

He was profoundly shocked when he saw himself on the screen. ’ And then, ‘They’re right, I am over to one side. I see it here clear enough, but I’ve no sense of it. ’ ‘That’s it,’ I said. ’ We have five senses in which we glory and which we recognize 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 unrecognized, and unlauded. These senses, unconscious, automatic, had to be discovered. Historically, indeed, their discovery came late: what the Victorians vaguely called ‘muscle sense’—the awareness of the relative position of trunk and limbs, derived from receptors in the joints and tendons— was only really defined (and named ‘proprioception’) in the 1890s.

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