Analysis


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The media item is from a non-profit foundation, TED, which targets individuals to become aware of “ideas worth spreading.” The speaker is Oliver Sacks, who is a neurologist, author, and a neurology/psychiatry professor at Columbia University. He has spoken to and studied several patients who has Charles Bonnet syndrome to understand why visual impaired individuals have hallucinations.
The target audience of this media item is for individuals who are afraid to admit that they have hallucinations, patients, and doctors. Yet, Oliver Sacks targets the general public as well in order to give people an insight of how the brain works when someone is hallucinating. Not many people are aware that that you can be perfectly sane and yet still have hallucinations. Thus, Oliver Sacks attempts to explain how we must not judge these individuals, but rather understand what is occurring in their brains instead.

Some visually impaired individuals have hallucinations that have no meaning or association to them. However, they are frightened to admit this problem because they do not want to be labeled as “insane” when they know they are anything but crazy. This is a common issue that needs to be addressed and informed to others because doctors could misdiagnose these individuals or they could feel confused as to why they are seeing things that do not actually exist. Therefore, Oliver Sacks wanted to spread this knowledge to patients, doctors, and the public.

As mentioned, people suffering from Charles Bonnet syndrome are visually impaired and not insane, but have their perception processes distributed and see convulsive stimulations. This is thought to be as hallucinations, which are not under the individual’s control and creation. People need to understand that there is a difference between psychotic and non-psychotic hallucinations. Psychotic hallucinations attend to the individual and form an interaction. On the other hand, hallucinations of the Charles Bonnet syndrome (non-psychotic) do not involve hallucinations that addresses to the individual. When an individual experiences these non-psychotic hallucinations, they become bewildered because they know these hallucinations do not exist and want to know why this is occurring. Therefore, these individuals deserve to know that even though they are hallucinating, there is nothing wrong with their brain or mind. Approximately 10 percent of hearing impaired people has musical hallucinations and 10 percent of visually impaired people have visual hallucinations as well. However, only one percent of these individuals admit that they have these hallucinations. This is a common problem and we need to show empathy for these individuals. We should not acknowledge these individuals as insane, especially since this is what they fear the most. Instead, we should bring the information about Charles Bonnet syndrome into notice.

The media item was delivered in a friendly and engaging manner. Oliver Sacks begins by retelling the stories of his patients, whom have experienced visual hallucinations. Providing real life examples not only allows the audience to recognise the extent of which these nonsensical imageries vary during hallucinations, but also enables them to be aware of the difficulties experienced by these individuals. That is, the frustration in knowing that although visually impaired, atypical imageries do not cease to appear - a contradiction that is difficult for one to adjust, and ultimately the fear of being classified differently. Thus, the audience is able to acquire a better understanding of the Charles Bonnet syndrome and ultimately have a sense of empathy towards these individuals.

Considering the target audience of this media item, the use of colloquial language, infused with subtle humour, successfully captures the attention of the listener and allows one to maintain interest in the topic. The conversational tone presented by Oliver Sacks breaks the barrier between himself, a professional in the field of Neuroscience, and his audience - many of whom do not have the acquired knowledge. Hence, the simplicity of the language enables people from non-scientific backgrounds to understand the Charles Bonnet syndrome and its implications. The level of understanding that can be acquired however is only of the surface level. The information one can gather from this session, in summary, includes a brief definition of the condition, the visual imageries people have reported to see and a simple explanation for the reason of its occurrence - "As you lose vision, the visual parts of the brain are no longer getting any input, they become hyperactive and excitable. And they start to fire spontaneously. And you start to see things." Although this is highly acceptable as Oliver Sacks' main purpose is to inform the general public of this condition, the information provided is inadequate for those such as university students, who have already attained the fundamental knowledge of the brain and its functions, to explore and learn about this condition in more depth and at a neuro-physiological level.