Oliver Sacks on the Left and Right Brain
Oliver Sacks is a psychiatrist and neurologist best known for his collections of case histories from the far borderlands of neurological experience, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, in which he describes patients struggling to live with conditions ranging from Tourette's syndrome to autism, parkinsonism, musical hallucination, epilepsy, phantom limb syndrome, schizophrenia, retardation, and Alzheimer's disease.
In 1966, Dr. Sacks began working as a consulting neurologist for Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, a chronic care hospital where he encountered an extraordinary group of patients, many of whom had spent decades in strange, frozen states, like human statues, unable to initiate movement. He recognized these patients as survivors of the great pandemic of sleepy sickness that had swept the world from 1916 to 1927, and treated them with a then-experimental drug, L-dopa, which enabled them to come back to life. They became the subjects of his book Awakenings, which later inspired a play by Harold Pinter and the Oscar-nominated feature film called Awakenings.
In July of 2007, Sacks was appointed Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, and he was also designated the university's first Columbia University Artist. Sacks Latest book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007), was has been Revised and Expanded in a new edition that was released in September of 2008.
Question: How are left and right brains different?
Oliver Sacks: Hemisphere differences are very striking, not only in human beings but many primates and other animals. And its doubleness is partly built into the vertebrate frame so that we have two kidneys and limbs on each sides. We’re symmetrical in most ways.
But the two halves of the brain, although normally they always worked together, they do seem rather different in character and function. And that’s very much as if the dominant hemisphere, which is usually the left hemisphere of the brain, is concerned especially with logical thought and analysis, and sometimes relatively routine, intellectual routines of one sort and another. And the right half of the brain much more to do with emotion, with novelty, with intuition and, to some extent, with identity.
And one can’t really say that one half is more important than the other because they have to come together completely.
Recorded on: Sep 4, 2008
Oliver Sacks explains the different but equal hemispheres of the brain.
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