Like being struck by lightning: Musicophilia

The July 23rd edition of The New Yorker has an article by Oliver Sacks on people who suddenly experience a passion and irresistible urge to listen to music after brain injury. The article itself is only available online as a brief summary, but there’s a freely available podcast where Sacks discusses the topic in more detail.

The article has some fascinating examples of how people have, literally, been struck by the condition:

A neurologists’s notebook about Tony Cicoria, who after being struck by lightning became obsessed by piano music. In 1994, when Tony Cicoria was forty-two, and a well-regarded orthopedic surgeon, he was struck by lightning. He had an out-of-body experience. “I saw my own body on the ground. I said to myself, ‘Oh shit, I’m dead.’ …Then‚Äîslam! I was back.” Soon after, he consulted a neurologist‚Äîhe was feeling sluggish and having some difficulties with his memory. He had a thorough neurological exam, and nothing seemed amiss.

A couple of weeks later, Cicoria went back to work, and in another two weeks, his memory problems disappeared. Life had returned to normal, seemingly, when “suddenly over two or three days, there was this insatiable desire to listen to piano music.” This was completely out of keeping with anything in his past. He started to teach himself to play piano. And then, he started to hear music in his head. In the third month after being struck, Cicoria was inspired, even possessed, by music, and scarcely had time for anything else.

The article and podcast are in lieu of a new book by Sacks, entitled Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain due out on October 17th.

Link to article summary.
Link to page with Oliver Sacks podcast (thanks Justin!)

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