When Oliver Sacks used L-Dopa to treat people, he found that the drug often provoked sudden, vivid reminiscences in his patients. When he used L-Dopa to treat a sixty-three year-old woman with Parkinson’s, for example, the woman exhibited nostalgia, increased libido, and an upsurge in memories of sexual experiences. The woman herself was astonished, since, she claimed, she hadn’t felt so lively since she was a young woman.
The sixty-three year-old woman in this chapter is similar to Natasha from Part Two, insofar as she experiences a sudden resurgence in libido and energy, brought about by a supposed mental “disorder.”
Most human beings experience an involuntary reminiscence at some point in their lives. Sometimes the reminiscence kicks off with a word, sound, or smell that triggers the memory. But involuntary reminiscences also arise in people who have epilepsy or chronic migraines. It would appear that people’s minds are “Stacked with an almost infinite number of dormant memory-traces,” which can be brought into the consciousness at any time. Epileptic fits, L-dopa, alcohol, and migraines can all uncover old memories, leading to a vivid “re-enactment of the past.”
There is an established link between memory and epilepsy, with the result that many epileptics experience sudden, involuntary attacks of reminiscence. In discussing the amount of usually inaccessible memories contained in each person’s brain, Sacks again examines what the “self” is and how it is connected to memory.