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Appetitive and consummatory states


'Therapeutic punishment'
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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The particular ward I worked on had a... what was called a behaviour mod, or behaviour modification policy, of using rewards and punishments, and in particular punishments, so the... the slogan of the ward was ‘therapeutic punishment’.

I hated to see the way in which the patients were treated... and physically abused.  And it reminded me of the way in which I had been treated and physically abused between the ages of six and 10 when I was in Brafield, and I felt myself falling sometimes into an almost helpless identification with the patients. But there was also a more constructive and adult side, and this was when I discovered that some of the patients were musical. I had a piano of my own at the time, an upright piano, and I arranged for it to be taken to the ward, and I would sometimes play for patients, and otherwise mute inaccessible autistic people would sort of crowd around me. I also found that... that there could be a, sort of, non-verbal interaction over a pool table, and the pool table and the piano were my therapeutic instruments, these morally neutral things, while others were locked in seclusion rooms and... and immobilised physically.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: Brafield-on-the-Green

Duration: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012