Tuesday, May 7, 2013

TED Talk Tuesday: Dr. Oliver Sacks - Hallucinations & Our Minds

I've mentioned before that I enjoy watching the presentations held by the TED organization. For more info about the TED organization check out my previous post featuring author Susan Cain A Different Perspective on: Introverts. There are so many interesting TEDtalks that every Tuesday I'll post one up that interests me.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness month I thought

it would be interesting to share the above video with speaker Dr. Oliver Sacks. Oliver Sacks is a neurological anthropologist and author who's career has explored various topics about the human experience and our minds. 

When people hear the word "hallucinations" it often conjures up fearful  connotations of perceiving extra-ordinary phenomenon that isn't real. The fear is also related to the stigmatization of mental health in the past. In this presentation Dr. Sacks more specifically discusses the phenomenon of hallucinations when it comes to vision and hearing loss. Seeing hallucinations because of vision loss is known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. 

In Charles Bonnet syndrome the brain attempts to "fill in" the images it receives from the eyes  causing brief hallucinations. This is similar to Phantom Limb Syndrome Due to some type of physical damage to the eye it doesn't send full imagery to the brain so the brain from memory fills in the missing part. Usually the missing parts are filled in with imagery that might seem random like a flash of a cartoon character. Charles Bonnet syndrome doesn't occur in all persons who have vision loss and doesn't last that long. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms do not be afraid to see your doctor so they can rule out any mental or neurological disturbances.

Dr. Sacks is credited for also having a compassionate understanding and approach to treating his patients with his willingness to understand. At the end of his presentation he goes on to admit that he also has experienced visual hallucinations due to vision and hearing loss. I also appreciate Dr. Sacks for admitting that himself because sometimes we forget that our doctors are people too.

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