Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, A Leg to Stand On and Musicophilia, gives the final Narrative Medicine Rounds for 2008-2009. From motor cars, to chess sets, to people in fanciful headdress, to images of Kermit the Frog, visual hallucinations in people going blind are not born of memory, but are new inventions of the visual brain. Dubbed the "poet laureate of medicine" by the New York Times, Dr. Sacks will speak on the topic of his next book: hallucinations and the life of the visual brain.
"In general [the subject of my work] appears to be illness or injury, but my subject as a physician is really survival and resilience." -- Dr. Oliver Sacks
Narrative Medicine Rounds are lectures or readings presented by scholars, clinicians, or writers engaged in work at the interface between narrative and health care. Rounds are held on the first Wednesday of each month from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Columbia University Medical Center campus, followed by a reception. Rounds are free and open to the public. Students, staff, faculty, patients, friends, and interested others are warmly welcome to join us. The Rounds are presented by the Program in Narrative Medicine and MBS Vox/Commonhealth. Please visit the Web site for more information (www.ce.columbia.edu/narrativemedicine).
Oliver Sacks was born in London, England into a family of physicians and scientists. He earned his medical degree at Oxford University (Queen's College), and did his residencies and fellowship work at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco and at UCLA. Since 1965, he has lived in New York, where he is a practicing neurologist. In 2007, Sacks was appointed the first Columbia University Artist, and he is also a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center.
In 1966, Sacks encountered an extraordinary group of patients at a chronic care hospital in the Bronx. They were deeply parkinsonian survivors of the 1916-27 pandemic of encephalitic lethargica, and they were virtually unable to move or speak. Sacks was able to bring them back to life with an experimental drug, L-dopa, and he later wrote about them in his book Awakenings. (The book in turn inspired the play "A Kind of Alaska" by Harold Pinter and the Oscar-nominated feature film "Awakenings.")
Sacks is also known for his collections of case histories, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, in which he describes patients struggling to adapt to and live with conditions ranging from Tourette's syndrome to autism, parkinsonism, musical hallucination, epilepsy, phantom limb syndrome, schizophrenia, retardation, and Alzheimer's disease.
Sacks' work regularly appears in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, as well as various medical journals. His most recent book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, and he is currently at work on a book about the visual brain.