Book Review: The Mind's Eye

This week I jumped into vision and neuroscience through the book The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks.

I had heard of Oliver Sacks and his book Musicophilia before but hadn't read his work. This book The Mind's Eye explores specific examples of unusual visual cases including lose of object recognition after stroke, depth perception, and color and facial blindness. Though it's a scientific topic he keeps the text accessible and engaging. The examples are descriptive and narrative, following specific individuals through their experiences.

Of course, given my work in visual art, I get quite curious about how our eyes and brain work together to perceive our world. I've also had students with similar challenges and it was interesting learning how to help them express themselves visually. 

A fascinating chapter to me was that of facial blindness. I've been doing a lot of portraits in recent years and find faces so wonderful! There is just so much said in a portrait I am perfectly content leaving my drawings without backgrounds or even fitting the body in the canvas. The face alone says enough. 

Apparently, people with facial blindness have an underutilized portion of their brain in the lower right hemisphere. They recognize people through characteristics aside from their face; like their accent, how they style their hair, how they walk etc... They can see the different facial features and can remember them, they just can't put all of them together to create the face of a person.

I've mentioned this before but these are more reasons why I love drawing portraits. They are so complex and challenging both to create and to look at. Not many painting subjects activate more than one part of the brain. 

These stories of facial blindness don't surprise me though. I live in a house with dyslexics. My guys have excellent comprehension skills. They have great vocabularies but can't put letters together to spell the words. This feels similar to those with facial blindness they can see the features they just can't put them together in their brain and label that combination to equal ____ person.

This book is non-fiction and scientific but the case studies are written more like short stories. So if the overarching topic is of interest to you then you will probably like the book regardless of which genre of book you tend to read.