Alice Flaherty is a neurologist, writer, and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Her most recent book is The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). It looks at the neural mechanisms that foster and inhibit creativity, and it challenges the “left brain-right brain” model of creativity that originated in the 1970s.
Her Radcliffe project is to complete her fourth book, which argues for a new way of thinking about psychosomatic states, both as brain states and as ways in which symptoms can provide advantages. Hysterical deficits turn out to be visible on functional brain scans. Realizing that “real” symptoms can provide secondary gain and “imaginary” symptoms can be physiological makes it easier to treat patients who resist treatment and suggests ways to wrest benefit from illness when possible.
Flaherty is the author of a number of scientific papers supported by National Institutes of Health grants. Her award-winning neurology textbook has been translated into multiple languages, and the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle named The Midnight Disease one of the best books of the year. She has appeared on television broadcasts in the United States and Europe, and her work has been featured in publications ranging from a Brazilian business magazine and the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association to a photo essay in National Geographic.