The Frontal Cortex

Oliver Sacks and NOVA

Just a quick reminder to watch the season premiere of NOVA tonight on PBS. It features Oliver Sacks and a few of the patients described in Musicophilia, including Tony Cicoria, an orthopedic surgeon who became obsessed with classical piano after being struck by lightning. I found the show quite compelling – NOVA was kind enough to send me a preview DVD – so be sure to tune in. For me, the most affecting story was that of Matt Giordano, who suffers from a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome. Matt is hard to watch, if only because his ordinary movements are constantly being interrupted by tics and twitches. Fortunately, Matt has discovered a temporary cure for his Tourette’s: drumming. When he’s playing on the drums, the spasms disappear, and Matt is able to execute movement with an uncanny sense of timing.

Bonus video: Dr. Sacks on The Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Oliver Sacks
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Jason Jones in Iran


  1. #1 catgirl
    June 30, 2009

    Thanks for telling us about this; I’ll try to remember to watch it tonight. Oliver Sacks is so fascinating. I have several of his books but I haven’t read them yet. I think I’ve heard about the Tourette’s patient before, but it will be interesting to learn more about it.

  2. #2 Ryan Shewcraft
    June 30, 2009

    I read Sacks’ book a few months ago. It was chock full of extremely interesting anecdotes. I look forward to watching the NOVA episode!

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    June 30, 2009

    That sounds like a really interesting program. My only issue with the above video is that Sacks said that humans are the only animal that can dance. Recent research suggests otherwise.

  4. #4 Turing Machine
    July 1, 2009

    Matt’s drumming, and Tourette’s syndrome, remind me of the bloke in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” who decided to stop taking his medication on weekends so that he could play drums with his band (given that the medication made worked ‘too well’ and took away the unpredictable drum solo’s the Tourette’s gave him!).

    Sacks is such an incredible writer, I hope he keeps the books coming.

  5. #5 Eli B
    July 3, 2009

    Hey Dude. I went to school with an amazing Jazz trumpet player with severe tourrette syndrome. Imagine a guy making his living around African Americans constantly blurting out the n word! I heard he had a knife pulled on him back in the 70’s by a well known saxophonist. Anyways, it was fascinating how as soon as he put the trumpet to his mouth, he was completely focussed and his ticks would completely disappear. I once asked him about his meds and he said he could still play and read music, but that improvising was almost impossible. I wonder why.

  6. #6 laura
    July 6, 2009

    “Rhythm is a purely human thing…a chimpanzee can’t dance.”

    Maybe not, but a cockatoo can:

    So he may want to re-evaluate that statement.

  7. #7 Tike
    May 19, 2011

    Now I feel stupid. That’s cerlaed it up for me

New comments have been disabled.