The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat


Have you ever wondered that the brain of humans is an unsolved riddle? How this little brain does became such a knowledge store for us? How is our mind so powerful? Human brain is so mysterious that experts in different fields like Neurology and Psychology have been trying to understand it for many years, but there is still something that is beyond comprehension.

Most of us does not have that much knowledge about brain damage. We only get to know about brain related conditions when we come across such a case. You may not believe but many special cases may have caused strange brain diseases due to brain tumour or any head injury.

These diseases are such in which some parts of the brain stop working. This book is also about such patients. This book has been written by Dr. Oliver Sacks regarding the extra-ordinary condition of brain. Along with being the author of this book, he is also an expert neurologist.

In this book, he has shared the stories of such patients, which the readers are surprised by reading.

So come! Read this book and try to know how powerful the human brain is.

(The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat)

Have you ever thought what would happen if you do not remember the faces of people? As you saw someone’s face, seeing him you smiled and started talking to him, but as soon as that person goes, you forget his face. Has that ever happened to you? How strange is it? The person you were talking to a minute ago, became a stranger to you in an instant.

But it is a pity that there are some people who are forced to live with this condition because their visual processing may malfunction. This happens when there is a deep injury into the head or a human being is the victim of an accident. The brain of these patients is unable to process the faces of the people, so these people try to identify someone through some special features like dimples on both cheeks or mole on the nose.

Mr. P. One was a well-known musician and teacher. He said that he does not recognize his students by his name but by his voice. This thing seemed strange and funny to people. Many a times Mr. P. used to treat non-living things or even lifeless things like humans. Like, many times he used to talk to the door knob or fire hydrant just like real humans.

He had diabetes so he was afraid that he should not become blind. So he went to an ophthalmologist. Expert told that his eyes are perfectly fine. He also said to Mr. P. that instead of approaching him, he should consult a neurologist. And thus Dr. Sack and Mr. P. met. Initially Dr. Sack did not find anything strange about him but as the conversation between the two continued to increase, Dr. noticed that Mr. P. was watching his face very carefully. He was studying his left eye, then right eye, and then Chin. But Mr. P. could not see the entire face of Dr. Sack in one shot.

And due to this Dr. Sack thought something strange is going on. He performed some routine tests of Mr. P. such as muscle strength, coordination and reflexes. Dr Oliver, told Mr. P. to take off his left shoe. Then he asked to wear it again but Mr. P. could not wear shoes. Dr Sack started helping him in wearing his shoe, so he said “I am already wearing my shoe” So Dr. pointing to his foot said, “Your shoe is still on the floor.” In response of it, Mr. P. pointing towards Dr’s feet said, “Oh! I thought that this is my foot”.

In addition to some strange things of this type, Dr. Oliver could not see any more problem in Mr. P. Then Dr. Sack picked up a magazine and got a picture from it and asked Mr. P to describe it. Mr. P. was telling the colour of the picture, shape and other small feature, but he could not understand what the whole picture was.

Then Dr. Sack asked him to describe the picture of the Sahara Desert, Mr. P. said that there is a river and a small guest house. Dr. Sack was surprised as there was nothing like this. And Mr. P. felt that Dr. was impressed with his answer.

Mr. P. Got up from the chair, and was looking for his hat that he has kept somewhere. His wife was sitting in the chair and she was waiting for him, suddenly Mr. P. caught the head of his wife and tried to keep it on his head, because he felt that it was his Hat. Actually Mr. P. had considered his wife as his hat!

Dr. Sack used to go to Mr. P. house to do his examination. However Mr. P. used to remember shapes and cartoon characters, but when he was shown pictures of the people living in his apartment, then he forgot there name also. He didn’t remembered the names of his co-workers and students.

If Mr. P. knew someone, so he remembered him with some of his special facial features. He used to watch things with unique features because he did not understand the whole picture.

(The Man Who Fell Out of Bed)

We often forget how complex our brain is. This small part of the skull stores thousands & millions of memories, we don’t know how many names you remember, and a lot of information is stored inside the brain around the world. Whatever information we want, we remain dependent on our brain. However, in today’s time, any problem related to the brain is easily known, whereas it was not 100 years ago. Today, medical science has become very advanced, yet many mysteries of the human brain have not been solved yet.

If there is a blood clot in the brain, or if there is an air bubble in the blood vessel of brain, then it can become a serious problem. Of course, a small part of the brain is hurt, but it can affect your entire body because every part of the body is connected to our brain. We should not forget that our brain is the control centre of our body.

Once Dr. Sack went to a patient’s room. He was a young man and looked normal. But it was before he slept. The man said that a second Dr. has told him that he has a “lazy” left leg problem. When that man woke up to sleep, he was lying on the ground. He refused to go to bed and kept staring at his left leg for a long time.

Dr. Sack told him to go back to bed, so he shook his head and started to refuse. He said that there was a chopped human leg on the bed. He looked horrified. Before Dr. Sack could speak, the man began to speak fearfully, “Why is this strange cold leg lying on my bed?” It seems that some nurse has done this dangerous joke with me”. In fact, the patient felt that the nurse might have drunk too much and pranked something with him in the New Year’s evening.

“I think the nurse might have taken a chopped leg and put it on the bed, saying that the patient had a big proud feeling on the face as if he had solved a mystery, and suddenly he picked up the leg on the bed, which was only visible to him, and threw it out of the bed. His lips were trembling, he was very scared and was repeatedly saying that this leg is following him because it is stuck with his body. And he started trying to separate the leg that was his own, from his body.

The man was shouting out of fear, then Dr. Sack came in the middle and explained to him that this is his own leg. But he was not ready to listen to Dr. he felt that Dr. Sack is making fun of him. Still after a long time, he finally understood that it was his own leg which he was understanding of someone else.

He told Dr. that he feels his feet as someone else’s. So Dr. asked, “If this is someone else’s leg, then where is your leg?” The man’s face was worth seeing on this question, and he said softly “My leg has disappeared and cannot be found”.

As everyone knows, we have five senses. Yet there is another sense which works unconvincing and automatic. Some of us also call it 6th sense. Now this sense helps you to understand that your hand is on your side, or your foot is at the bottom of the body, or your body is properly shaped. This is called 6th Sense Proprioception.

And we often take advantage of it because we do not take it seriously. However, without proprioception, you will not feel your body. Proprioception is often unconscionable and taken for granted sense because we do not see any specific reason to pay attention to it. We only notice it when it is missing. As if suddenly we have a problem of breath, then we will understand how important it is.

Dr. Sack, met Mr. McGregor in Neurology Clinic of a Retirement Village. Mr. McGregor brought to him the problem that people tell him that he walks leaned on one side, While he feel that he walks straight.

To find out, Dr. Sack asked Mr. McGregor to walk in a straight line and told that he would record his video. Dr. Sack notices one thing, Mr. McGregor, even at the age of 93 was very alert and by seeing him no one could tell his actual age.

Mr. McGregor stood up in the confidence and started walking. Dr. Sack himself saw with his own eyes that he was not walking straight. He was bent on one side. What the people said was very true. Mr. McGregor was extremely surprised when he saw the video of his walk. He told that he does not feel at all that he is walking bent on one side.

Dr. Sack told the old man about the Proprioception. Mr. McGregor gave a small example and tried to tell that he has understood the concept. The old man said, “There is a small voice in everyone’s mind that tells them not to lean on the side!” Walk straight! But there is no such voice in my mind” and Dr. Sack understood what the old man wanted to say.

Mr. McGregor also said that this problem has occurred may be due to the work of Carpenter, which he used to do earlier. He used a tool called Spirit Level, which allows carpenters to know if there is a surface level form or not. It looks like a bar in which there is a water tube in the Middle.

When the surface remains level, the water bubble remains in the middle of the tube, but if the surface is inclined to one side, the bubble will move somewhere else. Mr. McGregor’s natural body “spirit level” had deteriorated due to Parkinson disease.

Now both Dr. Sack and Mr. McGregor got together to overcome this problem. An Extended Horizontal Level on both sides of Mr McGregor’s Eye Glasses was fixed to let him know if he was leaning on one side.

Initially there were a lot of difficulties because Mr. McGregor had to do a level check again and again. But then soon he got into this habit, and lastly old man Mr. McGregor learned to walk straight away.

Eyes Right

It is quite challenging to treat cases like Mr. McGregor who do not even know that they have any problem. That is why we have to meet with them and tell them that there is some problem. Then the patient has to be convinced to solve the problem. One has to find a way that is best for them, such as a tool or technique that the patient can easily adapt and create their own habit.

You might not believe but some people can see with just one eye. These are not due to any blindness but because of the brain damage caused by the vision controller. The patient has to rotate 360 ​​degrees to see the other side so that he can see the entire view. People who have this kind of problem, can see all around them with the help of the CCTV camera. Since only one eye of these people works, so they need some special tools.

Mrs. C. had a dangerous stroke which caused her right eye to be affected by cerebral hemisphere. She could not see anything with her left eye. She often complained to the nurse about why she does not have a dessert in the food tray, whereas the desert was in the left side of the tray.

Nurses used to remind Mrs. C. again and again that she is present with her only. If she would turn her head with right eye, she could see the nurse. Due to this stroke. She was not able to see anything on the left side, and she used to do make-up only on the right side of the face, so the other side would remain make-up free.

Mrs. C. had adopted the “Turning Circles” technique so that she could also see the things of the left. Despite this, she used to make mistakes many times. Because all of her impulses would automatically go only on the right side of the face.

When Dr. Sack, set up a video camera for Mrs. C. so that she could see the left side of her face but Mrs. C. became even more upset and she refused to look on the left side.

The President’s Speech

Aphasia is a disease in which a human has a problem in understanding and speaking words. That means, those who have a disease of aphasia do not understand what they are told.

The disease of aphasia is not easily caught, spotting it is a long and tedious process. The neurologist checks that the patient is acting strangely or that his way of speaking is strange, whether he talks without any expression or emotion. Some of aphasia patients also talk in robotic voice.

Now because the patients of aphasia have problems in understanding the words, they have to depend on non-verbal clues. They guesses from someone’s voice, body language and facial expression what the person in front will be speaking. Apart from this, the patients of the aphasia get to know easily whether the person in front is telling the truth or lie. They come to know the difference between a true or fake person.

Brain has another extra-ordinary condition called Agnosia. This is the absolute opposite of aphasia. In this, patients understand only and only words. They do not understand the tone or feeling of words. Patients of Agnosia do not understand non-verbal clues.

Once in the hospital ward, the patients of Aphasia were laughing while watching the President’s speech on TV. They did not understand anything about the president, but seeing the expression from his face, they understood that whatever Mr. President is saying is completely untrue. Apart from aphasia, there were patients of agnosia also, who were watching TV.

One of them was Emily, who was previously a school teacher. Emily had agnosia, she did not like the President’s voice, body language or facial expression. Emily said that she found the president’s speech utter nonsense. She was not impressed at all. And she said “maybe the president has a problem of brain damage or he is hiding something”.

(Yes, Father-Sister)

Unfortunately, brain damage has many causes. For example, if you have a major accident or Parkinson’s disease, which is a dementia disease. No matter how much research has been done on the human brain, there are still many such factors which remain a mystery for us.

Our brain is so complex that if any part of it is damaged, then it affects a lot on the human body. For example, if the frontal lobes of the brain are covered with cancerous tissue, then the problem of personality changes occurs in the patient. This is a condition that has not yet received any treatment.

Mrs. B. is a former research chemist. Her mood suddenly changes. As if it is funny a moment before, then the second moment she gets very angry. Due to this changing mood, her friends and family have a big problem. They feels like Mrs. B. has changed, she don’t care about anyone. But they did not know that because of a brain tumour the personality of Mrs. B. may suddenly change.

One day Dr. Sack met with Mrs. B. and when both were talking, she was calling him “Father” Sister or “Doctor”. When Dr. Sack asked its reason, then Mrs. B. told him that his face and beard reminded her of a Father and his clothes reminded her of a sister. But when she sees his stethoscope, she calls him a doctor. Mrs. B Also told that this matter does not matter much, although she knows that Doctors, Father and Nuns are different.

So this was the outlook of Mrs. B. nothing mattered to her because everything was same in her sight. She also told that she has no problem with the fact that they all look the same.


Imagine that your exam is going to come and you are very nervous because the grades of these exams matter a lot to you. You sit to study, but you may not like the book. Everything you read gets out of the mind. You think again and again that you are going to fail in the exam. The fear of failing does not let you study. You are so tense that you don’t understand anything.

You cannot do anything by wishing. So, you have seen how powerful the thoughts are. When you start think that nothing can be achieved by you, then it really happens. Things for which your mind thinks negative, then even the body does not support it.

Madeleine is 60 years old. She has cerebral palsy disease. She is blind and remains ill. Madeleine is unable to do any work due to her helpless hands. Ever since she was born, she is totally dependent on her family members. Due to the condition of her hands, she also has difficulty in reading from brail. If something is to be read, then she has to depend on the other people. Dr. Sack was shocked because he didn’t knew that Madeline had such a serious problem.

Madeline can feel everything by touching it with her hands, light, pen, temperature, etc. But she does not recognize things with her hands, even she could not recognize Dr. Sack’s hands. This thing was even more surprising because the doctor felt that if Madeline can feel sensation, why can’t she touch things and recognize them?

Then Dr. Sack realized that Madeline could not learn to use her hands because her family used to do everything for her. Because everyone thought that Madeline’s constantly shaking hands were of no use. This was the reason that Madeline did not get a chance to explore things with her hands.

It is difficult to go against your Beliefs. Madeline had been believing for many years that her hand was useless. So Dr. Sack made a simple plan.

He told the nurse that she should deliberately keep the food tray of Madeline slightly out of her reach. The nurse did the same and when Madeline was very hungry, she did not wait for the nurse to come but grabbed her own food tray. For the first time in 60 years, Madeline used her hands.

After this experiment, more improvement came in Madeline. Then after some time, she learned to make face, head and other figures with clay sculpture.


You must have learned a few things after reading this book. The first thing is that our brain is very soft organ but it is so powerful that it controls our entire body. Secondly, when there is an injury in the brain, there is a good chance that the rest of our body can also be affected. Thirdly, a small injury or trauma in the brain can also become a serious problem.

And in the last, knowing about the brain’s rare conditions, we will get help in understanding those patients who have this problem. Life of these patients is very difficult. At least we can treat them with love and tenderness. And we should also encourage them.

These patients have a rare condition or disease of the brain, so this does not mean that their life is wasted. It is not so, they also have as much right to live as normal people. With the support of their family and friends, these people too can live a happy and successful life.

2 thoughts on “0

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