Punit Soni's Reviews > The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
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Jul 12, 12

bookshelves: science
Read in January, 2006

This book is simply incredible. It has stories of people whose lives are stranger than fiction and who are routinely degraded and misunderstood by our society. Oliver Sacks is probably the finest clinical writers around. This book is about a series of clinical cases that he has encountered in his career as a neuroscientist. It is fascinating to realise that neurological degeneration can make a man mistake his wife for a hat, or that it is possible to lose track of one's own body parts. One of my favorite ones is the case of a woman whose vision is halved and who can only see the right side of things.
Sacks talks about excesses and deficits of human mind. He talks about Tourette's syndrome which is caused by the excess production of L-dopa, the exact same ingredient responsible for the high from cocaine. He also discusses Parkinson's decease, caused by a deficit in the production of L-dopa in the brain. The mind is truly a wonderful piece of machinery. But Sacks argues that maybe it is not a machinery after all. Maybe there is something more to neurological disorders than just random malfunctions of the brain. There are far too many quirks, memory layers, relapses of nostalgia and idiot savants with amazing faculties around for us to be able to break these disorders into an exact science. Sacks writes about all of these issues with a lucidity seldom seen in a professional doctor. He breaks down the cases in a way that they are equally compelling and informative to a layman like me or a accomplished expert in his field. For this ability, he probably rivals Stephen Jay Gould.
But finally the main purpose of Sacks' book is to encourage us to understand and be compassionate towards people with such limitations. For maybe beyond the broken brain of a human being, there probably lies a perfectly functioning soul waiting to be discovered.
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