Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Into the groove

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 15 May 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1133
  1. Fred Charatan, retired psychiatrist, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
  1. charatanf{at}

Two books on music and the brain broaden our understanding of normal and abnormal musical experience, writes Fred Charatan

Daniel J Levitin

Musicophilia, by neurologist and amateur musician Oliver Sacks, is a series of stories that deal with the power of music on individuals, including patients. Music, says Sacks, professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University, New York, occupies more areas of our brain than language does. Written in Sacks’s eloquent and limpid style, the book begins with the case of Tony Cicoria, a healthy 42 year old orthopaedic surgeon who is struck by lightning and suddenly gripped with the desire to become a pianist.

The book is rich in other clinical examples: Sacks discusses musicogenic epilepsy, ohrwurms (brainworms—a tune or jingle stuck in the mind), musical dreams and hallucinations, amusia following strokes, and synaesthesia and music. The chapters on music and amnesia, and those on Parkinson’s disease, will interest doctors who must deal with these problems.

Professor Sacks, in a graphic story, …

View Full Text

Sign in

Log in through your institution