Oliver Sacks  (July 9, 1933 – August 30, 2015)

One of the world’s most acclaimed neurologists, Dr. Oliver Sacks, has passed away at the age of 82. Most famous for his books, Awakenings (later to become a popular film) and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Sacks became renowned for his ability to make unusual neurological conditions accessible to the general public. His distinctive flair with the English language -and empathy as a clinician - meant he brought charm, dignity and grace to his clinical stories.

Dr. Sacks also played an important role in raising awareness of Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS). It could be argued that he - perhaps more than any other - managed to further the cause of CBS due to his sizeable mainstream reach. He presented a thoroughly engaging TED lecture on CBS in 2009 that eloquently captured the syndrome’s facets. This can be viewed here.

Further, in 2012, he published the book, Hallucinations, to which the first chapter was dedicated to CBS. Here are two excerpts from that work:

'Charles Bonnet syndrome was considered rare before 1990... I thought this strange, for working in old-age homes and nursing homes for over thirty years, I had seen a number of blind or purblind patients with CBS... I wondered whether CBS was actually much more commoner than the literature seemed to indicate. Recent studies have confirmed this is the case, although CBS is still little recognized, even by doctors, and there is much to suggest that many or most cases are overlooked or misdiagnosed.'  (p. 10)

 

‘Occasionally people with CBS may hallucinate letters, lines of print, musical notes, numerals, mathematical symbols, or other types of notation… Sometimes the hallucinated text has an obvious association with experience, as with one man who wrote to me that he would see Hebrew letters all over the walls for about six weeks following Yom Kippur each year.’  (p.13)