The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Book Cover

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Book by: Oliver Sacks
Publishing Year: 1985
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A classic work in psychology, this bestseller provides us a glimpse into the complicated functioning of the human brain, and how it affects lives of people. Dr. Oliver Sacks leads us through the bizarre world of neurological disorders, by narrating stories and personal accounts of some patients. If you’re fascinated by the workings of the brain, then read on!

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Lesson 1. Introduction.

In this book, Oliver Sacks, M.D. compiles several narratives of patients of different neurological disorders. He presents them not as case histories meant for medical scrutiny, but as stories illustrating the effects of the disorder on the life of the individual. This makes the accounts more personal and human. 

The following lessons will narrate some of the tales Sacks compiles in his book. They will help us to understand more about the lives of the victims of brain damage, and the ways in which they’ve been able to construct their lives around their disability. 

Lesson 2. How brain damage can lead to strange behaviour.

Consider the following scenarios:

  1. A man mistakes parking meters for children at play, and caresses their ‘heads’. He also mistakes his wife’s head for a hat, and tries to wear it, leading to a lot of commotion. 
  2. A woman lives in constant fear because she believes that someone has left their leg in her bed. In reality, the troublemaker limb belongs to her. 
  3. A man perfectly comprehends body language, facial expressions, and tone, but has no clue about language. 

What is common between all these individuals? All are victims of some form of brain damage. Brain damage can have adverse effects on our wellbeing and abilities, irrespective of whether it was caused by a stroke, tumor or inflammation.

For instance, overproduction of the neurotransmitter dopamine results in compulsive twitching, and makes one imitate others, grimace and curse, without being able to stop.

Alcoholism can have many damaging consequences on the brain, one of which is the Korsakow syndrome. This syndrome was named after a Russian psychiatrist and neurologist, who studied alcoholics. This disorder is caused by alcohol-induced damage to the hippocampus. A victim can lose years’ of memories, and is not able to store new ones. 

On the other hand, brain damage can have beneficial effects. Mrs K., an 89-year old patient, did not want her symptoms of neurosyphilis to be cured. This was because the cognitive effects of her disease made her feel young, lively and energetic. Her doctor gave her medication that killed the spirochetes, while sparing the cerebral changes.

Brain damage can have bizarre manifestations. Let’s look at some other examples. 

Lesson 3. The brain can create its own reality in event of any brain damage.

The brain can conjure up an entirely different reality, in event of memory loss or some other impairment. Sacks

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About the author

Oliver Sacks Image

Oliver Sacks, a brilliant neurologist and writer, illuminated the human mind’s intricacies with empathy. His captivating narratives merges science and storytelling, unveiling the beauty within neurological diversity. Sacks redefined understanding, evo...

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Book Cover
Chapter List
  • Lesson 1. Introduction.
  • Lesson 2. How brain damage can lead to strange behaviour.
  • Lesson 3. The brain can create its own reality in event of any brain damage.
  • Lesson 4. Unusual visual perceptions can occur due to impairment of the visual center in the brain.
  • Lesson 5. Excess brain activity can cause impairments.
  • Lesson 6. Changes in the brain can unlock long-forgotten memories or some lost ability.
  • Lesson 7. Auditory hallucinations may be caused by damage to the temporal lobe.
  • Lesson 8. Patients of neurological disorders can have unusually startling talents and abilities.
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FAQs

In the summary of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat book, there are 8 key lessons. These lessons include:

  1. Lesson 1. Introduction.
  2. Lesson 2. How brain damage can lead to strange behaviour.
  3. Lesson 3. The brain can create its own reality in event of any brain damage.
  4. Lesson 4. Unusual visual perceptions can occur due to impairment of the visual center in the brain.
  5. Lesson 5. Excess brain activity can cause impairments.
  6. Lesson 6. Changes in the brain can unlock long-forgotten memories or some lost ability.
  7. Lesson 7. Auditory hallucinations may be caused by damage to the temporal lobe.
  8. Lesson 8. Patients of neurological disorders can have unusually startling talents and abilities.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks was published in 1985.

Once you've completed The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat book, We suggest reading out Lean In as a great follow-up read.

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