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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a 1985 book by neurologist Oliver Sacks describing the case histories of some of Dr. Sacks's patients. The title of the book comes from the case study of a man with visual agnosia. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat became the basis of an opera by Michael Nyman, composed in 1986. It was also the title of a song produced in 2004 by Iodo (a Lincoln based band).

The other essays in this book include:

  • "The Lost Mariner", about Jimmie G., who has lost the ability to form new memories due to Korsakoff's syndrome. He can remember nothing of his life since his demobilization at the end of WWII, including events that happened only a few minutes ago, and must struggle to form an identity. The main character of the film Memento has a similar condition, and struggles to identify a certain "John G." or "Jimmy G."
  • "The President's Speech" - about a ward of aphasiacs and agnosiacs listening to a speech given by President Reagan. Each group saw flaws in the president's content and presentation respectively, flaws which escaped the notice of 'normal' people. This essay gives insight into techniques of propaganda.
  • "The Disembodied Lady" - a unique case of a woman losing her entire sense of proprioception (the sense of the position of parts of the body, relative to other neighbouring parts of the body).
  • "On The Level" - another case involving damaged proprioception. Dr. Sacks interviews a patient who has trouble walking upright and discovers that he has lost his innate sense of balance due to Parkinson's-like symptoms that have damaged his inner ears; the patient, comparing his sense of balance to a carpenter's spirit level, suggests the construction of a similar level inside a pair of glasses, which enables him to judge his balance by sight.
  • "The Twins" - about autistic savants. Dr. Sacks tries to connect with twin brothers by joining their game of finding very large prime numbers. He cheats and uses a book; neither of them can read or even do multiplication. They instantly count 111 dropped matches simultaneously noticing that 111 is three 37s. This event, with toothpicks in place of matches, and other of Dr. Sacks's observations on autistic savants, were used in the film Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman.
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