Get a free audiobook

$14.95/month + applicable taxes after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

An extraordinary memoir about the cutting-edge brain therapy that dramatically changed the life and mind of John Elder Robison, the New York Times best-selling author of Look Me in the Eye.

Imagine spending the first 40 years of your life in darkness, blind to the emotions and social signals of other people. Then imagine that someone suddenly switches the lights on.

John Elder Robison's best-selling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, is one of the most beloved accounts of life with autism. In Switched On, Robison shares the second part of his journey, pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery as he undergoes an experimental brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. TMS drastically changes Robison's life. After 40 years of feeling like a social misfit - either misreading other people's emotions or missing them completely and accepting this as his fate - Robison can suddenly sense a powerful range of emotion in others as a result of the treatments: "It was as if I'd been experiencing the world in black and white all my life, and suddenly I could see everything - and particularly other people - in brilliant, beautiful color." The ability to connect emotionally with others for the first time brings Robison a kind of joy he has never known.

And yet, Robison's newfound insight has very real downsides. As the emotional ground shifts beneath his feet, he must find a way to move forward without losing sight of who he is, what he values, and all he has worked so hard for. Robison is our guinea pig and our guide, bravely leading us on an adventure that holds the key to new ways of understanding the mysteries of the human brain. In this real-life Flowers for Algernon, he grapples with a trade-off - the very real possibility that choosing to diminish his disability might also mean sacrificing his unique gifts and even some of his closest relationships.

Switched On is a fascinating and intimate window into what it means to be neurologically different and what happens when the world as you know it is upended overnight.

©2016 John Elder Robison (P)2016 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"A fascinating companion to the previous memoirs by this masterful storyteller." ( Kirkus Reviews)
" Switched On is a mind-blowing book that will force you to ask deep questions about what is important in life. Would normalizing the brains of those who think differently reduce their motivation for great achievement?" (Temple Grandin, author of The Autistic Brain)
"John Elder Robison is an extraordinary guide, carefully elucidating the cutting-edge science behind this revolutionary new brain therapy, TMS, alongside the compelling story of the impact it has on his relationships, his thinking and emotions, and indeed his very identity. At the heart of Switched On are fundamental questions of who we are, of where our identity resides, of difference and disability and free will, which are brought into sharp focus by Robison's lived experience." (Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Effect)

What listeners say about Switched On

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

No reviews are available
Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Becca
  • 2020-01-10

Already reviewed - this could be me.

I wrote a review on this prior to listening to it. My assessment then remains true today. I was not surprised by how John reads; I am well aware of his work, and have been active in the autism awareness community long enough to have known what to expect.

What I was NOT expecting was that John's experience with TMS is eerily identical in many ways to my own response to a neurological treatment along those same lines. Like John, I was diagnosed as an Aspergian adult (37 in my case) and I began that treatment in my early 40s. I come from an audio engineering background, and did college and graduate school degrees to help me learn how to communicate and understand others better so I wouldn't feel so alienated.

My third treatment resulted in a few hours after the fact, having a sudden and inexplicable burst of crying, and I could SEE the emotions on the faces of those around me - and I understood what they meant. It was indeed very much like a dam of emotional awareness had been broken through, only I was not equipped to identify, manage, nor express what I was experiencing. It's taken years to achieve a relatively functional relationship with my emotional sensitivity, achieved through the support of my family, my educational background and experience in counseling psychology, and the aid of my therapist/practitioner combined with a LOT of reading and questions.

I had never met or heard of anyone who has had a similar experience before. So it was quite the thrill to find that a gentleman I have tangentially known (varying degrees of separation) and the author of books I have on my shelf has had this same sort of experience, as best I can tell. I have many questions about it. I did not participate in a research study and some things I did not experience (the hallucinations, for example, but I did have some very minor disinhibition after one session). But the parts I did do, knowing years elapsed between John's treatment and my own, give me hope for a longer-lasting recalibration of the brain.

My husband laughed with me as I cried that night, holding me close and saying, "Welcome to the human race" when I plaintively asked him if there was some way I could go back to being like Spock, because I was so overwhelmed and scared. Clearly that didn't happen. But when John relates the experiences he had early in, of feeling the music and being able to look into people's eyes and understand the emotions below the surface, it was as if I could have written those words about my own experience.

I listened to this in two days (part of which was at work). I am now wondering how many others have experienced the good, the bad, and the neutral effects of brain stimulation, and if there might be a need for someone to be a peer mentor with counseling credentials who has "been there, done a version of that" herself. ;)

This book has honestly changed my life - I don't feel so alone in my experiences anymore. I suspect it will have a very specific audience, but that's okay. I anticipate those who need to hear/read this will find it. As for me, I cannot recommend it highly enough, and am recommending it to my practitioner, family, and friends so they might get a sliver of insight regarding the incredible internal journey I have been on the last few years.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andy Girl 81
  • 2020-02-04

Highly recommend

I am very impressed by this book. I appreciate the truthful and deeply personal insights shared. This author has helped me to understand autism better and some of the more recent research being done.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lisa Mittan
  • 2020-01-11

Well written and informative.

So interesting to hear a real story of a real person on the spectrum, who was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to try a treatment that helped him, while better understanding the gifts he had before the treatment.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Richard
  • 2016-08-21

Unlikely to be what you expect

Any additional comments?

If you are on the spectrum and introspective you will likely find this fascinating. If you are not, you could be frustrated and/or bored at the tedium of getting thru the whole thing. As an autistic person I can only say that I see a point to almost every word. Some chapters will seem pointless to one person and be the most captivating to another so nobody should say 'it would have been better (more bearable) without this or that chapter'. You likely would remove the most interesting part for some other reader.
I don't think the point of reading is that it's a captivating story even though many may find it so. To me it's a must read for anyone who IS or lives with a high functioning autistic person. I recommend it to those who are on the spectrum because it gives a fascinating and credible basis for thinking about ones place in the world and some practical consequences of changing that place.
For the rest, it's never as credible to hear a person with Asperger syndrome explain that they do care even though, from all outward appearances, they don't. John has earned a voice on the national and international stages, not by who he knows but by being truly insightful and articulate while speaking from first hand experience. While he may not be able to speak for every autistic person, his descriptions and insights into how many of us think and feel is very realistic and generally quite close to the mark. I encourage anyone having regular contact with someone on the spectrum to not only read what he says about how we think but believe it and use it as a basis to take what those you know say seriously.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Gary
  • 2016-04-05

Adequete anecdotal telling of complex science

The book is an anecdotal account of the author's experience of taking TMS (transcranal magnetic stimulation), as an experimental treatment for autism (he'll often use the word Asperger instead of 'autism'). The author is a good narrator, and tells his personnel experiences in a very likable manner.

Overall, I think I could have gotten what I wanted out of the book by reading a magazine length article on the merits and wizardry on TMS instead. I had wondered about the efficacy of the procedure before reading this book, and to the author's credit, I still wonder because he doesn't go beyond what the current science says and much more science needs to be done before easy answers can be given.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Nichole Andre
  • 2016-03-25

such a great story

Absolutely loved it! I was hooked from the start and could not put it down. Such a good listen. Personal, touching, wonderous, and insightful.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Fredonna Walker
  • 2019-04-05

Muy interesante

I was spellbound. Hearing Robison describe this study he participated in and how it changed him and how he feels about the concepts of the study - riveting.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 2019-03-28

I enjoyed.

I enjoyed John's story. At times I thought a little less information could have made it easier to stick with, but that also showed John's personality.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-11-03

Inspirational

This book gives human beings a sense of hope and insight into the workings of our brain and consciousness.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-09-01

Tiring narrator

For an audio book to be enjoyable the narrator's voice plays an important role and this was a complete disappointment.. story not what expected.