Oliver Sacks on Hallucinations

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Neurologist Oliver Sacks talks about hallucinations, which can be linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. His new book, Hallucinations, weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition. 


Oliver Sacks

Comments [17]

john campo from NYC

This type talk is very dangerous. Hallucinations happen from one that has not achieved a level of consciousness to be able to stop them. If you see things that are out of your control that is not a good thing and anyone that uses these things is. I can't imagine anyone thinking that they might be something to dabble in. I would suggest reading the Tibetan book of the dead and all will be reviled... If you can't understand its writings you have not achieved a higher level of consciousness.

Nov. 09 2012 02:56 PM
John A from Sobriety

If our country continues into greater dysfunction, I will blame at least part of it, 10% perhaps, on normalization of the use of drugs, and those who lead us into this normalisation.

Nov. 06 2012 02:04 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Just how much LSD did Dr. Sacks ingest before stumbling into the radio station today? Fear and Loathing on election day, baby.

Nov. 06 2012 01:56 PM
francyne from Pelham Bay Park

I once had an hallucination. Middle of the day, no drugs or drinking, not an epileptic. Was walking my dog down a fairly deserted street in Durham, NC...part small industrial park. There was a ruined small stone house, maybe late 19th, early 20th C. I saw a man up on the roof, repairing. Went over to enquire about someone having bought it and was rehabbing. Looked up, no one there. Really strange. Nothing like that has ever happened again.

Nov. 06 2012 01:56 PM
maria from Brooklyn

Do you know anything about hallucinations experienced during a deep state of concentration or meditation? I've "seen" some pretty wild visual images during meditation with my eyes closed, and I wonder what these are about/if they are related to the hallucinations you are discussing. Thanks!

Nov. 06 2012 01:55 PM
BJK from Queens

I am surprised that so little of this segment has elaborated on the diagnostic connection between hallucinations (especially auditory) and psychotic mania in bipolar disorder.
These can be profoundly frightening to those experiencing them for the first time, not knowing or understanding their origin.

Nov. 06 2012 01:55 PM

So happy to hear Dr. Sacks! Can you please comment on episodes of dreams flooding back to a degree where it's overwhelming and makes one nauseous? And one almost loses a sense of reality? Have you heard of this?

Nov. 06 2012 01:50 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Are the visual or auditory hallucinations in blind or deaf people analogous to sensations in a phantom limb?

Nov. 06 2012 01:44 PM
Caren from Hawaii

I spent time visiting my mother when she was insitutionalized and witnessed many people having hallucinations. Our culture puts people away and call these hallucinations "insanity," but I also notice there is a grey area when religious belief comes into play currently in our country. When a political leader tells of God speaking to them, there are many people who accept this without question.

Nov. 06 2012 01:44 PM
Jim from Brooklyn

I'm sure Dr. Sacks is aware of the work of the late princeton psychologist Julian Jaynes and his ideas about the role of auditory hallucinations in Ancient Greece and other cultures in antiquity. Did Dr. Sacks ever meet Jaynes? What does he think of Jaynes's book, the Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind?

Nov. 06 2012 01:44 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Could Dr. Sacks comment on the visions of the Oracle at Delphi, which have recently been theorized to have been caused by hallucinogenic chemicals in the vapors that rose from the spring in her cave?

Nov. 06 2012 01:40 PM
Cynthia from NYC

I have been suffering from chronic pain for years. It moves around.


Nov. 06 2012 01:40 PM
deb lucke from Cold Spring Ny

My father has false memories that he has seen every movie, play or tv show before. He has all sorts of details such as seeing it in England. What might be causing this? Is it some sort of deja vu?

Nov. 06 2012 01:39 PM
Victoria Roberts from Manhattan

When I was 9 I had an emergency tracheotomy. On the way to the hospital I had great difficulty breathing, but the "scene" (I was in a Police car with my mother which was faster than an ambulance for us) changed to black and white and I thought I was in a gangster movie-I saw shiny old cars etc. I am convinced that having this hallucination/distraction-a narrative of sorts-kept my mind away from the fact that I couldn't breathe.

Nov. 06 2012 01:39 PM
Drew from Williamsburg

I've always wondered about act of having a conversation with oneself in one's head. I do it all the time. I don't actually hear a voice but I still hear everything as words, as conversation.

Also, I have extensive experience with many types of hallucinogens. Some that were completely immersive, with total physical and temporal displacement.

The conversations with myself in my head started years and years before any of that. When I was a child. I've never really discussed it with anyone, though, so I don't know what it's like for other people.

Nov. 06 2012 01:37 PM

Is it true that one can hallucinate during a high fever? When I was 14 I had a throat infection or flu and hallucinated that I left my body. It was terrifying - not at all the peace and end of pain that people describe with near-death experiences.

Nov. 06 2012 12:55 PM
david from nyc

I thought the last three years have been a hallucination

Nov. 06 2012 12:37 PM

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