Oliver Sacks - What Hallucinations Reveal about Our Minds

I don't think I have ever had a hallucination, unless this is it, and while I'm glad that puts me square in the middle of the 'normal' and non-diseased mental spectrum, sometimes it does make me wonder whether I don't hallucinate because my bullshit detector is too strong to fool itself (fat chance!) or because my brain is just not creative enough to fool around and take off on its own :(

In today's presentation, neurologist Oliver Sacks brings our attention not only to Charles Bonnett syndrome, a condition in which people experience lucid visual hallucinations, but to what diseases such as these are starting to reveal about the structure and amazing complexity of the brain, not least of which is the multiplicity of independent information processing centers dedicated to visual perception alone.


Once you realize that so many systems are each doing their own thing, it seems baffling that their cumulative output is experienced by the mind as a seamless and coherent whole, doesn't it?

The fortunate non-participatory nature of Charles Bonnett's syndrome is partly explained by the absence of activity in the amygdala, but that absence of activity may also turn perfectly normal perception into the haunting fear that your loved ones may have been replaced by impostors, as V.S Ramachandran explains in this fascinating presentation.

Check out Living without memory, the case of Clive Wearing, a documentary with Oliver Sacks about one of the most bizarre cases of amnesia ever recorded.

Finally, if you suffer from intensely religious experiences, that might be an indication of temporal lobe epilepsy, so have yourself checked out :)
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