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Book review: The Ceiling Outside - The Science and Experience of the Disrupted Mind by Noga Arikha


Both of our fathers succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. And other friends and family have had a prolonged progression of dementia. This is a well written, thoughtful book. The author observed sessions with psychiatrists, neurologists, and their patients. This book is In the tradition of Oliver Sacks, but incorporates up-to-date breakthrough science as well. A diabetic woman awakens from a coma having forgotten the last ten years of her life. A Haitian immigrant has nightmares that begin bleeding into his waking hours. A retired teacher loses the use of her right hand due to pain of no known origin. Noga Arikha began studying these patients and their confounding symptoms in order to explore how our physical experiences inform our identities. Soon after she initiated her work, the question took on unexpected urgency, as Arikha’s own mother began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease. A quote from the book: “As her mother slips into the fog of dementia, a philosopher grapples with the unbreakable links between our bodies and our sense of self.”

Weaving together stories of her subjects’ troubles and her mother’s decline, Arikha searches for some meaning in the science she has set out to study. The result is an unforgettable journey across the ever-shifting boundaries between ourselves and each other.”


Submitted by Chris Smith, member of Chapter 32

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