In his previous books, Oliver Sacks had addressed questions of the brain and mind through the lens of case histories of individuals with neurological disorders. Recently, however, he had been reflecting on his experiences with such patients in the context of a lifetime of medical practice, and in light of recent neuroscientific evidence and theories. The River of Consciousness is a broader and more direct look at how the brain and mind work, as always, incorporating Sacks' rich historical and personal context.
Advances in neuroscience have revolutionized our ability to visualize the brain in action. For the first time we are able to close the gap between the philosophical questions which have consumed the world's thinkers since the eighteenth century and the true physiological basis of perception and consciousness. In The River of Consciousness, Sacks examines questions of memory, time, and consciousness. How do we think, how do we remember? Do different individuals have different speeds or ways of thinking? Is memory reliable? How do the neural correlates of memory differ for true memories and false memories? How do we construct our sense of time, our visual world? What is consciousness, neurologically speaking? And most importantly, what is creativity?
Sacks completed the research for The River of Consciousness before he died, and with instructions on how it was to be put together. This is a remarkable culmination of a lifetime's research into the way the brain works.
Oliver Sacks was born in 1933 in London and was educated at Queen's College, Oxford. He completed his medical training at San Francisco's Mount Zion Hospital and at UCLA before moving to New York, where he soon encountered the patients whom he would write about in his book Awakenings. Dr Sacks spent almost fifty years working as a neurologist and wrote many books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Hallucinations, about the strange neurological predicaments and conditions of his patients. The New York Times referred to him as 'the poet laureate of medicine', and over the years he received many awards, including honours from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Royal College of Physicians. In 2008, he was appointed Commander of the British Empire. His memoir, On the Move, was published shortly before his death in August 2015.