Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

musicophiliaThis collection of case histories and personal reflections by neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks, describes the weird and wonderful ways that music affects our brains.  The book is divided into themed sections including auditory hallucinations, issues of human musicality such as savants, how music impacts memory, and how music can trigger a sense of identity used to treat brain injury.  The topics covered include music therapy for conditions ranging stroke to dementia, and the strange way that tunes can recreate a sense of place and time.  Earworm anyone?

What the Armchair Critics Thought

Although it deals with a great topic, and starts with a series of intriguing anecdotes, we found the combination of medical and musical jargon made finishing the book a bit of a slog.   The chapters became quite repetitive as they covered a number of case studies, a description of some treatment, and then a long list of footnotes.  Many of the stories were strange and amazing, however, we wished that the author had formulated a conclusion or thesis to pull the various threads of the book together and teach us a little more about brain development and function.  Fortunately we had special guest Harrison Ritz in the room to describe the latest brain research out of southern Ontario universities – who knew our area was a hub for the study of music and neurology?

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