Christian Long

Oliver Sacks: What Hallucination Reveals About Our Minds

In TED Talks on April 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Reflection by ANGELA W.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Oliver Sacks: What Hallucination Reveals about Our Minds

Wouldn’t you be scared out of your mind if you saw deformed people in eastern dress walking up and down stairs? Or seeing cartoons that cover half of your visions? Wouldn’t you be even more freaked out if all this happened while you were blind?

In fact, many people struggle with this everyday. They have a disease called Charles Bonnet syndrome. The Charles Bonnet syndrome is a condition that causes patients with visual loss to have complex visual hallucinations. There is not as much research on this syndrome as wished due to people being afraid to talk about it. These people that refuse to talk about their hallucinations need to realize that if they do not talk about it, than their problem will never get fixed and nothing will be done. Because very few people choose to open up about their syndrome, there is no treatment.

Charles Bonnet did not have this syndrome him self, but his 89 year old grandfather did. Bonnet observed him and listened to his stories about the things he has seen. His grandfather had been seeing men, women, birds, carriages, buildings, tapestries, and scaffolding patterns. All of the things he saw were random and had nothing to do with what he was thinking or doing. Bonnet diagnosed his grandfather with this syndrome in 1760.

Oliver Sacks talks about a few of his patients with this syndrome. One of them was an old lady named Rosalie. She was the woman seeing deformed people in eastern dress that would walk up and down stairs. She had said that they would smile and their teeth would be un-proportionally large. She also had said that right before she saw them pink and blue squares would appear on the ground and move all the way to the ceiling.

Another one of Sack’s patient saw cartoons. The cartoons were of Kermit the frog. The lady seeing this cartoon did not understand why the cartoon was Kermit because it meant nothing to her. Doctors have not found a reason to why people with this syndrome see what they see. This syndrome is usually found in elderly that have had severe vision loss.

I have become very interested in the way the brain functions and how everything we do connects back to our brain in the past year. The fact that people that are partially or fully blind and are able to have hallucinations fascinates me. I hope people with this syndrome start talking about their problems because many people would love have more data and research over this syndrome.

  1. […] For more information about the brain to chew on, visit Angela W’s report on “Oliver Sacks: What Hallucination Reveals About Our Minds” […]

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