Alice Weaver Flaherty

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Alice Weaver Flaherty is an American neurologist. She is a researcher, physician, educator and author of the 2004 book The Midnight Disease, about the neural basis of creativity.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

She completed her undergraduate degree and her medical degree at Harvard University as well as a fellowship there. She also completed a Ph.D. at MIT.


Dr. Flaherty is a joint associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She heads the MGH Neurology’s Brain Stimulator Unit, where “she uses deep brain stimulators to treat neurological disease and psychiatric disease. Her research focuses on how human brains represent their bodies, a factor that helps drive suffering in depression, Parkinson’s, and somatoform disorders.”[2]

She writes in various genres, including “scientific papers, humorous essays, and picture books”.[3] Her book, The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Neurology is the most "widely used neurology text in its class".[2]

Experience with hypergraphia[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”.[4] She describes her experiences with hypergraphia, this overwhelming urge to write. 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 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.


Selected journal articles[edit]

  • Graybiel, A.M., Aosaki, T., Flaherty, A.W., Kimura, M. "The basal ganglia and adaptive motor control" (1994) Science, 265 (5180), pp. 1826–1831.
  • 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.
  • Flaherty A.W. Frontotemporal and dopaminergic control of idea generation and creative drive. J Comparative Neurology. 2005;493(1):147-53.
  • Flaherty, A.W. Creativity and disease: Mechanisms and treatment. Canadian J. Psychiatry. 2011;56(3):132-143.

Books and non-technical articles[edit]

  • 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
    • 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., illus. Magoon, Scott. The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin; 2007. ISBN 978-0618556441
    • Korean translation as Flaherty, Alice W., illus. Magoon, Scott. 호수 의 행운 괴물 다움 [hosu ui haeng-un goemul daum]. Seoul: Marubol Publications; 2008.
  • 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, AW. Playing doctor well. "Neurology." 2008;70(11):826-7.
  • Flaherty, AW. Special effects: What can the dramatic arts teach doctors about improving their performances? Harvard Medical Bulletin. 2009;82(2):12-17.
  • Flaherty, Alice W. Performing the art of medicine. Total Art Journal. 1(1), 2011.
  • Flaherty AW. Writing and drugs. Writing and Pedagogy. 4(2), 2012.


  1. ^ Ely, Elissa. "From Bipolar Darkness, the Empathy to Be a Doctor". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b Profile at ResearchCrossroads
  3. ^ Profile Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine at David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University
  4. ^ Cromie, William J. (2004). "The brains behind writer's block". Harvard Gazette. Harvard University.