17/01/26

Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks brings our attention to Charles Bonnet syndrome — when visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. He describes the experiences of his patients in heartwarming detail and walks us through the biology of this under-reported phenomenon.

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Intro

Oliver Wolf Sacks, (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was a British neurologist, naturalist and author who spent his professional life in the United States. He believed that the brain is the “most incredible thing in the universe.” He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about his patients’ disorders, with some of his books adapted for stage and film.

From Wikipedia

  • Do you also think that the brain is the most incredible thing in the universe?

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Watch

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Glossary

  • bonkers – mad; crazy
  • lucid – expressed clearly; easy to understand
  • oblivious – not aware of or concerned about what is happening around one
  • deteriorate – become progressively worse
  • impaired – weakened or damaged
  • scaffolding – a temporary structure on the outside of a building, made of wooden planks and metal poles, used by workmen while building, repairing, or cleaning the building
  • concertinaan instrument

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Think about it

Answer the questions below. Pause at times indicated in brackets. 

  • How do we perceive the world? (1:00)
  • What kind of hallucinations was Rosalie experiencing? How did she feel about them? (3:56)
  • Who was Charles Bonnet and what is his connection to Rosalie? (6:44)
  • What kind of hallucinations were some other patients experiencing? (10:11)
  • What are the differences between Charles Bonnet, frontal lobe, and psychotic hallucinations? (11:55)
  • What happens to the the brain when someone is hallucinating? (14:44)

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Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

towards    –    certain    –    wear     –    away    –    sort

So I said, “What ________ of things?” And she said, “People in Eastern dress, in drapes, walking up and down stairs. A man who turns ________ me and smiles. But he has huge teeth on one side of his mouth. Animals too. I see a white building. It’s snowing, a soft snow. I see this horse with a harness, dragging the snow ________ . Then, one night, the scene changes. I see cats and dogs walking towards me. They come to a ________ point and then stop. Then it changes again. I see a lot of children. They are walking up and down stairs. They ________ bright colors, rose and blue, like Eastern dress.”

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Fill in the blank spaces with the verbs in brackets used in appropriate tenses and forms. 

And she has a sense of humor. She knew it was a hallucination. But she ________ (is) frightened. She’d lived 95 years and she ________ (never have) a hallucination before. She ________ (say) that the hallucinations ________ (is) unrelated to anything she was thinking or feeling or doing, that they seemed to come on by themselves, or disappear. She had no control over them. She said she ________ (not recognize) any of the people or places in the hallucinations. And none of the people or the animals, well, they all seemed oblivious of her. And she ________ (not know) what was going on. She wondered if she was going mad or losing her mind.

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Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

Another patient of ________ had a different sort of hallucination. This was a woman ________ didn’t have trouble with her eyes, but the visual parts of her brain, a little tumor in the occipital cortex. And, above all, she ________ see cartoons. These cartoons would be transparent and would cover half the visual field, like ________ screen. And especially she saw cartoons of Kermit ________ Frog. (Laughter) Now, I don’t watch Sesame Street, but she made ________ point of saying, “Why Kermit?” she said, “Kermit the Frog means nothing to me.You know, I was wondering about Freudian determinants. Why Kermit? Kermit the Frog means nothing to me.”

Answers

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