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Summary ofThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Owing to the great ignorance about very real and pressing mental disorders, British neurologist and famous author Oliver Sacks has put forward “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, an amazing body of work that wholly appreciates the range of conditions that have prevailed right under our noses and how exactly to identify and manage them. This book educates readers on the ins and outs of several brain diseases and helps to sensitize the public on what patients go through. From the author of “Awakenings”, now a major motion picture starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, this is a book to be read. “If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self — himself — he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.” ~ Oliver Sacks

Key points


Agnosia is a condition that impairs a person’s sensory receptors due to an injury or tumor in the brain

Agnosia is the inability to recognize sensory input due to damage to the temporal lobe of the brain. It is a rare condition that can result from lesions on the brain or physical injury to the parts of the brain responsible for perception, memory, and identification.
Agnosia arises from a brain injury that causes sufferers to lose the function of one or more of their sensory receptors.
A person struggling with agnosia is often unable to process external stimuli correctly. They’d be forced to adjust to alternative means of recollection, or their brain would create a shortcut. The condition, although rare, has as many types as there are senses:
• Hearing (auditory) agnosia — the inability to identify objects through sound, such as a buzzing doorbell
• Taste (gustatory) agnosia — the inability to identify objects through taste, such as sweet or salty
• Smell (olfactory) agnosia — the inability to identify scents correctly
• Sight (visual) agnosia — the lack of perception or inability to identify objects through sight

Consider a man with a curious form of agnosia who could not properly perceive objects and images with his eyes. Instead, he could only identify a person or object by a notable feature, a recognizable sound, or if he could feel it in his hands. He had visual agnosia from the look of things, and his brain had found a way around the disability to arm him with alternatives with which he could observe his environment. But the problem was he couldn’t perceive something if he couldn’t hear, smell, or touch it; so much so that upon examination at the neurologist’s, he motioned to leave but couldn’t find his hat and grabbed onto his wife’s head instead.

Other forms of the condition include prosopagnosia, anosognosia, and somatosensory agnosia. But the most common is visual agnosia, and its sufferers are rid of their sight but still able to see, albeit in part. This summary describes the various forms of this type of mental illness and how to heal from them.

Korsakov's syndrome is a form of amnesia that plagues chronic alcoholics with poor nutrition

Korsakov’s syndrome presents as a delusional phase, often causing the patient to believe they are in a particular time and location. The present time, location, or people are irreconcilable in their memory. This damage to the brain, not unlike agnosia, affects the sufferer’s perception of reality. While someone with agnosia cannot fully appreciate sensory input and loses the full perception of reality, this form of amnesia makes it so that they are bereft of any real view of the world.
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Certain conditions mimic agnosia, but with therapy, sufferers can regain lost use of sensory receptors


Certain anomalies present like agnosia, one of which is the lack of proprioception — the body’s eye


Some conditions take a much dire tone and increase the deficit in sensory disorders in sufferers


Certain patients present increased or decreased sensory activity caused by a tumor in the temporal lobe of the brain


There exists a form of amnesia that can be overturned in the event of damage to the brain’s frontal lobe


In some cases, mental disabilities imbue patients with an extraordinary ability unlike any average person



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