'Study Up For Think': Hallucinations Aren't As Crazy As They Sound | KERA News

'Study Up For Think': Hallucinations Aren't As Crazy As They Sound

Jan 28, 2013

Seeing or hearing things that aren’t actually there? Up to ten percent of the general population is, and they aren't all mentally ill, says Dr. Oliver Sacks. He’s a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine and author of the new book Hallucinations. Think host Krys Boyd explores the nuance of this widely recognized symptom of psychiatric disorders with Sacks today at 1 p.m.

Sacks describes the way hallucinations can provide emotional catharsis in this NY Times opinion piece. Though they were revered as gifts in pre-modern times for mystical reasons – and still are in other cultures – there is something distinctly human to be found in these sensory experiences.

In moments of grief, he writes, images of close friends or family we’ve lost can be cathartic. And for patients who are losing their sight or hearing, Sacks says hallucinations are a kind of last goodbye from the fading sense:

“David Stewart, a Charles Bonnet syndrome patient with whom I corresponded, writes of his hallucinations as being “altogether friendly,” and imagines his eyes saying: “Sorry to have let you down. We recognize that blindness is no fun, so we’ve organized this small syndrome, a sort of coda to your sighted life. It’s not much, but it’s the best we can manage.” 

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