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This book, which covers Visions and hallucinations, explains what causes them and summarises how many hallucinations have been caused by each event or activity. It also provides specific help with questions people have asked us, such as ‘Is my medication giving me hallucinations?’.

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Observations placeholder

Sacks, Oliver - The hallucinations of migraine



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


A description of the experience

Oliver Sacks – Hallucinations

In my own migraine auras, I would sometimes see – vividly with closed eyes, more faintly and transparently if I kept my eyes open - tiny branching lines like twigs or geometrical structures: lattices, checkerboards, cobwebs, and honeycombs.

Unlike the scintillating scotoma itself, which had a fixed appearance and a slow, steady rate of progression, these patterns were in continual motion, forming and re-forming, sometimes assembling themselves into more complicated forms like Turkish carpets or complex mosaics or three-dimensional shapes like tiny pinecones or sea urchins.

Usually these patterns stayed inside the scotoma, to one side or the other of my visual field, but sometimes they seemed to break loose and scatter themselves all over.

One has to call these hallucinations, even though they are only patterns and not images, for there is nothing in the external world that corresponds to the zigzags and checkerboards – they are generated by the brain.

And there may also be startling perceptual changes with migraine. I might sometimes lose the sense of colour or of depth (for other people, colour or depth may intensify). Losing the sense of movement was especially startling, for instead of continuous movement, I would see only a stuttering series of "stiIls."

Objects might change size or shape or distance, or get misplaced in the visual field so that, for a minute or two, the whole visual world would be unintelligible.

The source of the experience

Sacks, Oliver

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps