Assistive Technologies


2hrs 1min
Directed by
Penny Marshall
Robin Williams,
Robert De Niro,
Julie Kavner

Dr. Susan R. Barry (Mount Holyoke College) and Dr. Aniruddh Patel (Tufts University) will share personal memories of  the legendary physician, neuroscientist, and author Oliver Sacks, whose classic book Awakenings is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. They will also discuss Sacks' groundbreaking work with survivors of the encephalitic lethargica and their return to the world after decades of “sleep”, as depicted in the award-winning 1991 film. 

Co-presented by The Oliver Sacks Foundation

Robert De Niro and Robin Williams star in this powerful, true story of a maverick doctor and the patients whose lives he changes.

Williams plays Dr. Malcolm Sayer, a shy research physician who uses an experimental drug to "awaken" the catatonic victims of a rare disease. De Niro co-stars as Leonard, the first patient to receive the controversial treatment. His awakening, filled with awe and enthusiasm, proves a rebirth for Sayer too, as the exuberant patient reveals life's simple but unutterably sweet pleasures to the introverted doctor. Encouraged by Leonard's stunning recovery, Sayer administers the drug to the other patients. The story of their friendship during this emotional journey is a testament to both the tenderness of the human heart and the strength of the human soul.

On February 25 at 7pm, Odyssey Opera, in partnership with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), will present the East Coast Premiere of Tobias Picker’s Awakenings Opera at The Huntington Theatre. For more information, please visit


Susan R. Barry received her PhD in Biology from Princeton University in 1981 and is professor emeritus of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience at Mount Holyoke College. In 2006, she was the subject of Oliver Sacks’s New Yorker article “Stereo Sue,” which described her acquisition of stereovision at the age of 48, an accomplishment thought to be impossible by the biomedical community. Since that time, Dr. Barry has written two books, both dealing with neuroplasticity and sensory recovery: Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions (Basic Books, 2009) and Coming to Our Senses: A Boy Who Learned to See, A Girl Who Learned to Hear, and How We All Discover the World (Basic Books, 2021).

Aniruddh (Ani) Patel became friends with Oliver Sacks through their shared interest in music and the brain. He is a Professor of Psychology at Tufts University, where he researches the cognitive, neural, and evolutionary foundations of musicality. He is the author of Music, Language, and the Brain (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008) and the writer and presenter of the lecture series Music and The Brain from The Great Courses (2015). Patel received his PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University, and is currently doing comparative research on how humans and other animals process musical rhythm and melody.

Co-presented by

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