The Man Who Fell Out of the Bed

Video credits: Nathan Brown

Would you believe me if I told you there was once a case of a young man who was admitted to a hospital for some tests and at night suddenly fell out of his bed?

Of course you would.

What if, this time, I told you the young man refused to go back to his bed and told the doctor that he had a feeling of a “lazy left leg and also the leg wasn’t his but someone else’s?

Probably it would be hard for you to believe me this time. If not hard at least you’re confused.

The case is real and talked about by Dr Oliver Sacks in his famous book “The Man Who Mistook his wife for a Hat”. Dr Oliver Sacks was a neurologist and an author. He had spent almost 50 years working as a neurologist and wrote many books including The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, Awakenings and Hallucinations among many others. The New York Times referred to him as ‘the poet laureate of medicine’. He was well known for his series of non-fictional books on interesting cases in psychiatry and neurology.

The Case

As mentioned before, this interesting case is of a young man who came to a hospital for some tests. While asleep at night, he woke up all of a sudden. He had expressions of anger, alarm, bewilderment and amusement. Dr Sacks was still a medical student at that time and he was called in immediately. The patient complained that his left leg felt lazy and it wasn’t his leg at all. It belonged to someone else. He complained of his own leg as ‘a severed leg, a horrible thing!’ After some time he realized what had actually happened and said: it was all a joke!! He further said that it was a New Year’s Eve and half the staff was drunk. He was confident about one of the nurses stealing a leg and slipping it under his bedclothes while he was fast asleep. He got so angry that he started seizing it with both hands. He tried to tear it off his body but failed every time. He kept denying that it was his leg and when asked where would be his own leg be then, he said, “I don’t know. I have no idea. It’s disappeared. It’s gone. It’s nowhere to be found…”

What actually happened?

Recent research especially in neurology has a diagnosis of the case. It’s called “parietal ataxic hemiparesis”. It is believed this happens when there is damage to the right parietal lobe in the brain. The parietal lobes are located behind the frontal lobes and above the temporal lobes and are responsible for processing the sensory information, understanding spatial orientation and body awareness.

Parietal ataxic hemiparesis is considered to be a very rare condition. In some cases it has been seen that anti-epileptic drugs are effective in remedying the symptoms. Rehabilitation has also proven to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms where a combination of physical and mental exercises are used. 

Human brain is very complex. It is full of mysteries. There is a lot that gets governed by our brains that we don’t even know about. But after reading about such interesting cases I realize how far we have come with our understanding on human brain.

Humans inclination towards ‘novelty’

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There is a very popular saying that, most probably, we are all aware of. It is” Old is Gold.” I couldn’t agree more with these words. There is some beauty in what is antique and old. But as it turns out that we, as humans, don’t necessarily follow it. Actually, our brains don’t let us.

Does it ever happens with you that you have a phone that is capable of doing every work of yours yet you still crave for that new one whose advertisement you just saw? Or does it happens with you that you are reading a book and are bored of it too soon that you are already thinking of picking up a new one? Do you also keep checking your emails every 5 or 10 minutes even though you know there won’t be another email for the next half an hour or so? Human beings have always been attracted towards ‘what is new’ or ‘novel’. New things make us feel so good that we are always seeking them.

Now the question comes why does it happen? What’s the story behind it?

Novelty and The Human Brain

It is not entirely right blaming people when it comes to their tendency of checking phones quite frequently or buying new gadgets from time to time. Somewhere our brains are at fault. Human brain works in such a way that it ignores what is old and focuses the attention towards what’s new. From the evolutionary point of view it is quite plausible because our ancestors needed to pay more attention towards the ‘new dangers’ to survive and not towards what is already known or familiar.

Research especially in the field of neuroscience has shown that whenever we are exposed to new things (new hair color, new people, new shoes, new watch, new house, etc.) or novelty our meso-limbic dopamine system gets activated. When the dopamine system is activated a neurotransmitter called dopamine gets send across different brain regions. This gives us pleasure but at the same time our brain starts telling us to seek more of novelty. This is the reason why new stuff makes us feel good for the time being. This is the reason why a notification on social media makes us feel good. This is the reason why we are always refreshing our emails. Every new thing causes dopamine to get released and that pleasure is what we are after.

Novelty and learning

While it is true that our tendency to seek novelty make us lives a little disruptive, it is not wrong to acknowledge that, nevertheless, novelty has many benefits especially in learning. Earlier it was believed that dopamine is merely a ‘reward chemical’ or ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter. However, recent studies have shown that it is also related to our motivation to seek rewards. These result in brain reacting to novelty by releasing dopamine which further motivates us to explore more of that stuff.

Due to the influence of novelty, plasticity of the hippocampus (which is primarily associated with memory) gets increased while the brain is involved in exploring new things or stimuli in the environment. This causes new neural pathways to get formed, thereby increasing the chances of learning new concepts and ideas. Novelty has also been shown to improve our memory. That is why it is always a good idea to change our environment from time to time while we are working or studying. Working or studying at the same place all the time impedes our progress and by changing the location we improve our performance as brain responds differently (and in a good way in this case) in new settings.

Managing the inclination towards novelty

When novelty isn’t for our benefit it becomes very important that we take control of ourselves and our actions. Whenever we are distracted by new stuff like media notifications, devices and many other things we should be mindful of their usage. We should put a hold for some time and let those cravings and urges pass away. It is quite understandable that it is not easy in any way but with constant practice we can surely get better.

Decoding myself- ANGER

Picture credits: An Evil Nymph’s Blog on wordpress

Why are you angry?

Did someone say something to you?

Did someone hit you?

Did someone lie to you or hurt you emotionally?

These are all possibilities!!

Obvious and reasonable possibilities for you to be ANGRY…

I don’t intend to deny them. I don’t intend to steal you from your pain that’s been caused to you by these ‘external factors’.

But my question is, “WHY ARE YOU ANGRY? Why YOU and not THEY?”

If you were hurt because of someone else’s actions why is it that only you are angry and not the other person when you both were in the same situation at the same time? (assuming that the other person is actually isn’t angry)

It’s simple. You CHOSE. You chose to be angry. You chose to punish yourself for someone else’s faults or actions. You chose to be angry because you had all these EXPECTATIONS from the other person. Your CHOICE coupled EXPECTATIONS is what’s making you angry and causing you misery.

Anger cannot be simply alleviated with good and positive thoughts. There is a whole lot of complexity. Your neurons are doing their part; their sole job is changing your brain’s chemistry and that is giving rise to this emotion called anger. Neuroscience cannot be ignored here. Also, there is a whole lot of explanation from the evolutionary point of view as well. But my questions are more focused into freewill. My point is that you are angry and you must do something about it. Your anger is a reaction. Sometimes it is okay to be angry because you cannot always put a hold on your reactions. It’s just not humanly possible. But being angry; constantly angry is pain. It’s a grave pain for your mental well-being. And that’s why you must learn how to take control over your reactions.

It takes time. If I say you stop your expectations from other people or you simply have to acknowledge that you always have a choice. I am afraid it is too much to ask. These ideas are easier said than done.

So how should you start? Where should you start?

Whenever you are about to angry simply tell yourself that ‘right now I am angry.’ Acknowledge your anger. Then don’t listen to your thoughts. Let them float. Let them circle around in your head. Give them time. Some time. Even more if its needed. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that you are going to react after 1 minute. Let that minute pass. If you are still angry give your reaction time one more minute. You will cool down eventually . It shall pass. Now by doing this you are choosing not to get angry. You are choosing to let go off the expectations.


Detachment from the moment becomes the key.