AS THE POPULATION AGES, DO YOU SEE MORE PATIENTS WITH PROBLEMS OF DEMENTIA? AND VARYING KINDS OF DEMENTIA? I have always worked largely with geriatric patients, and many of them have dementia of various types: Alzheimer's, frontotemporal dementia, and the spectrum of Lewy body disorders which sometimes occur with Parkinson's. Doctors and researchers these days understand much more about different types of dementia than we did 20 or 30 years ago, and I think we will make huge advances in this area in the next decade.
DO ANY OF THE PATIENTS YOU'VE WRITTEN ABOUT STILL HAUNT YOU? I am haunted, above all, by some of my Awakenings patients, especially Rose R. Rose fell ill in the 1920s, as a vivacious young woman, a flapper. When she was "awakened" by L-dopa in 1969, she was in her own 60s. She could not bear the new world she had been awakened to, and after 10 days she regressed to the trancelike state she had been in since 1926. She was the patient who inspired Harold Pinter to write his play A Kind of Alaska.
YOU'VE SPENT MUCH OF YOUR LIFE THINKING ABOUT THINKING. IS IT DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO TURN OFF YOUR BRAIN IN A CONSCIOUS WAY? Yes, very difficult — but I can do it by going for a long swim, which I do regularly.
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