As a child, I watched Alfred Hitchcock Theater, The Twilight Zone and other science fiction or horror shows. Often times the storyline was based on a victim's mental problems or their skewed perception of the world. Looking back, I remember the fascination I felt when watching one specific episode of the Twillight Zone. In this particular episode, a man turned into a zombie by some type of poison. Essentially he was still alive, but he was dead to the world. In the end he was embalmed while he was completely conscious yet could not say anything to prevent it. Like this incident, every episode captivated me but when it was over I could sleep easy because there was no possibility of any of it happening. Oliver Sacks disrupts my childhood understanding of what is plausible and what is not in the real world. In his Book, The Man Who mistook his Wife for a Hat, Sacks compiles a group of stories that appeal to the curiosity and compassion of a young boy through his close look at human experiences in the eyes of science, medicine and new technology.
The chapters discussing 'Losses'; and 'Transports'; sparked my interest the most. The first story that caught my attention was about the sixty year old Madeline J. who was suffers from being 'congenitally blind'; and has 'cerebral palsy';(Sack 59). She was a very bright and intelligent woman that gained all her knowledge and learning from listening to books and from talking to people. She had never learned Braille because her hands were 'Useless godforsaken lumps of dough…'; Through simple tests, Sacks discovered that her hand recognized light touches, pain, and temperature. All basic sensations and perceptions were in tact. However, when objects were placed in her hands, she could not identify them. She did not try to search and explore the object; 'there were no active 'interogatory' movements of here hands. Sacks concluded that her hands were fine functionally; she did not know they were there. Madeline had to discover her hands and make the neural connection before she would be able to use them (Sacks 59-61).
In an effort to get Madeline to use her hands, he asked her nurses to put her food slightly out of reach and leave the room on occasions. Sacks hope that due to the hunger, she would reach out for the food and use her hands. One day 'impatie...
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...Bhagawhandi's tumor was found in the frontal lobe. DNT have many intracortical nodules that vary in size. Its cells resemble 'well-differentiated oligodendroglioma';. However the cells are often found in clusters and other intricate shapes. Because of the tumor the 'adjacent cerebral cortex often exhibits cortical dysphasia with disturbed lamination and disarray in architecture (Final).
Oliver Sacks does an excellent job of writing about that appeals to all walks of life and a diverse set of cultures. He translates topics that would take a doctorate degree to understand and presents it in a way that is entertaining and a joy to read. In the story of the blind sculptress he gives us hope, feeds our curiosity with the phantom finger, and finally touches our heart in our trip with the Indian girl back home.
Carlson, Neil R. Foundations of Physiological Psychology. Allyn and Bacon. London. 1999.
'Case Eight - Dysembryoplastic Neuroepithelial Tumor';. http://www.uhrad.com/mriarc/mri008.htm
'Introduction to Cerebral Palsy';. http://www.islandnet.com/~aclemens/intro2.htm
Sacks, Oliver. The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. Touchstone Book. New York. 1985.
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