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Hallucinations

by Oliver Sacks

Just before a migraine, New York Times blogger Siri Hustvedt had an amiable encounter with a tiny pink man and an equally tiny pink ox. The odd pair wandered around her bedroom a bit before vanishing. “I have often wished they would return,” she writes, “but they never have.”

Hustvedt’s story is just one of the case studies that Sacks, a neurologist, recounts in this charmingly bizarre compilation of strange sensory experiences. Hallucinations tend to be viewed as a sign of an unsound mind (SN: 4/7/12, p. 22). Far more often, Sacks contends, the causes are mundane: migraine auras, fevers, injuries, grief, drugs — prescription and otherwise — and even falling asleep or waking up. Seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that aren’t there, he says, is a normal part of the human condition.

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