Witty Ticcy Ray tells the story of Dr. Sacks’s treatment of a 24-year-old man with disabling Tourette’s syndrome. The first half of the essay is mainly medical-historical, with some technical language. When Sacks first tries treating Ray with a minute dose of Haldol, Ray finds that even that low dose too effective. It breaks up the rhythms that have determined his life since the age of 4, and he doesn’t like it. Later, a second trial using the same dose succeeds, Sacks believes, because Ray had by that time accommodated mentally to a change in self-image.

Still, over time Ray missed his old wildness and speed, and he and Sacks agree on a compromise: During the week, Ray takes Haldol and is the "sober citizen, the calm deliberator." On weekends, he is again "’witty ticcy Ray,’ frenetic, frivolous, inspired"--and a talented jazz drummer. This, according to Ray, offers Touretters an acceptable artificial version of normals’ balance between freedom and constraint.


Witty Ticcy Ray is one of two dozen studies of patients with right-brain disorders that make up Sacks’s volume, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It shares with those essays a focus on the interior or existential world of the patient as the foundation of diagnosis and cure, a position Sacks openly proposes as a corrective to the physiology-based worldview of his field of neurology. It is also provides a convincing example of the clinical value of incorporating "illness" (the patient’s perspective) along with "disease" (the doctor’s) in diagnosis and treatment.

Primary Source

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales


Summit Books

Place Published

New York



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