Migraines, Music, and Drugs: Oliver Sacks on Hallucinations

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NPR Books has a fascinating interview with Oliver Sacks on his new book Hallucinations.

An excerpt on hallucinations during migraines:

…At least on two occasions, I’ve had a smell — in particular a smell of hot buttered toast — with a strong sense that I was about 3 years old, being put in a high chair, and about to be given hot buttered toast. A sort of olfactory hallucination often goes along with recollection in that sort of way. The first time I got that, I was in hospital and I went searching for the toast. The second time, I was driving on the Bronx River Parkway, where there was obviously no toast to be had.

You’ve already had a nice preview if you’ve read Sacks’ recent New Yorker piece “Altered States,” in which he recounts using pretty much every drug—not what you’d expect from a world-famous neurologist, although then again maybe it is.

Sacks has also written about the grievous injury he sustained during an encounter with a Norwegian bull and his experience with prosopagnosia, or “face blindness,” because apparently nothing about his life is not surprising and compelling.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →