Alice Weaver Flaherty

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Dr. Alice Weaver Flaherty is a neurologist known for her award-winning book about the neural basis of creativity titled the Midnight Disease.

She completed her A.B., M.D., internship, residency, and fellowship at Harvard. She also completed a Ph.D. at MIT.[1] She currently works at the Massachusetts General Hospital and in addition assumes the position as assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

She writes in various genres, including “scientific papers, humorous essays, and picture books”.[2] She is head of the MGH Neurology’s Brain Stimulator Unit, where “she uses deep brain stimulators to treat psychiatric as well as neurological disease. Her research focuses on how our brains represent our bodies, a factor that helps drive suffering in depression, Parkinson’s, and somatoform disorders.”[1] Her book, The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Neurology is the most "widely used neurology text in its class".[1]

Experience with hypergraphia (the overwhelming urge to write)[edit]

After her premature twin boys died soon after their birth, Flaherty was full of grief. Several days later, however, she “awoke one morning with an overwhelming desire to put everything on her mind on paper”.[3] She claims she could not stop for a period of four months. A similar experience occurred after the birth of her premature twin girls, who fortunately survived. Following the two births, her abilities to produce creative works have been heightened. Her most famous book “The Midnight Disease” tries to make sense of this phenomenon.


Journal articles[edit]

she has published 26 peer-reviewed journal articles listed in Scopus. The six most highly cited are:

  • Graybiel, A.M., Aosaki, T., Flaherty, A.W., Kimura, M. "The basal ganglia and adaptive motor control" (1994) Science, 265 (5180), pp. 1826–1831. Cited 498 times.
  • Flaherty, A.W., Graybiel, A.M. "Two input systems for body representations in the primate striatal matrix: Experimental evidence in the squirrel monkey" (1993) Journal of Neuroscience, 13 (3), pp. 1120–1137. Cited 133 times.
  • Flaherty, A.W., Graybiel, A.M. "Corticostriatal transformations in the primate somatosensory system. Projections from physiologically mapped body-part representations"

(1991) Journal of Neurophysiology, 66 (4), pp. 1249–1263. Cited 112 times

  • Flaherty, A.W., Graybiel, A.M. "Input-output organization of the sensorimotor striatum in the squirrel monkey" (1994) Journal of Neuroscience, 14 (2), pp. 599–610. Cited 97 times.
  • O'Gorman, S., Flaherty, W.A., Fishman, G.A., Berson, E.L. "Histopathologic findings in Best's vitelliform macular dystrophy" (1988) Archives of Ophthalmology, 106 (9), pp. 1261–1268. Cited 71 times.
  • Flaherty, A.W., Williams, Z.M., Amirnovin, R., Kasper, E., Rauch, S.L., Cosgrove, G.R., Eskandar, E.N." Deep brain stimulation of the anterior internal capsule for the treatment of tourette syndrome: Technical case report" (2005) Neurosurgery, 57 (4 SUPPL.), pp. ONS-403. Cited 56 times.

Books and non-technical articles[edit]

  • Flaherty, Alice W., and Natalia S. Rost. The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Neurology. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2nd ed. 2007. ISBN 978-0-7817-5137-7
      • Translated into Japanese as Flaherty, Alice W., and Takamichi Hattori. MGH 神経内科ハンドブック / MGH shinkei naika handobukku. Tokyo: Medikaru saiensu intanashonaru, 2001
  • Flaherty, Alice W. The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. ISBN 978-0-618-23065-5
    • Review, Publishers Weekly
    • Review, Women's review of books. 22, no. 3, (2004): 11-12
    • Review, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 53, no. 2 (2005): 630-634
    • Review Lancet Neurology 3, no. 9, (2004): 568
    • Review, The American journal of psychiatry. 161, no. 10, (2004): 1937
    • Review, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 48, no. 1 (2005): 148-150
      • German translation as "Die Mitternachtskrankheit : warum Schriftsteller schreiben müssen ; Schreibzwang, Schreibrausch, Schreibblockade und das kreative Gehirn" Berlin :, 2004. ISBN 978-3-932909-39-9
      • Japanese translation as Flaherty, Alice, and Toshiko Yoshida. 書きたがる脳 : 言語と創造性の科学 / Kakitagaru nō: gengo to sōzōsei no kagaku. Tōkyō: Randamuhausukōdansha, 2006.
  • Flaherty, Alice W. 2008. "Interdisciplinary Inspiration". Nature. 451, no. 7176: 246.