Seized: Temporal Lobe Epilepsy As a Medical, Historical, and Artistic Phenomenon

Overview

Its symptoms are varied, involving an extraordinary range of behaviors: hallucinations, flashbacks, intense anger and fear, heightened religious feelings, changes in sexual interest, a compulsion to write or draw. Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), a condition that affects more than a million Americans, is one of the most common neurological disorders, yet one of the most remarkable. In its depths may lie not only a hidden source of creativity, but clues to one of the greatest scientific riddles of our time - the link...
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Overview

Its symptoms are varied, involving an extraordinary range of behaviors: hallucinations, flashbacks, intense anger and fear, heightened religious feelings, changes in sexual interest, a compulsion to write or draw. Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), a condition that affects more than a million Americans, is one of the most common neurological disorders, yet one of the most remarkable. In its depths may lie not only a hidden source of creativity, but clues to one of the greatest scientific riddles of our time - the link between body and mind. In Seized, journalist Eve LaPlante has written a compelling chronicle of the lives of three ordinary people with this extraordinary disease: a corporate executive, a small-town attorney, and a former prison inmate and mental patient. Although TLE is the most common form of epilepsy among adults, it remains a challenge to diagnose and treat because of its manifold guises and degrees of severity. The stories of these patients show the amazing array of TLE's effects, both positive and negative, and illustrate how people manage to cope with the disorder by adapting in desperate or constructive ways. Interwoven with these narratives are accounts of the pioneering efforts by doctors to find a cure, from early, often harmful interventions - such as castration and psychosurgery - to today's hopeful drug therapies and neurosurgery. As the book reveals, what continues to make TLE a promising subject for research, as well as fascinating medical mystery, is its suggestive link to creativity. Moses, Saint Paul, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, van Gogh, and Lewis Carroll are only a few of the prominent figures portrayed in Seized who are thought to have had the disease, which may account for distinctive features in their lives and work. Dostoevsky, for example, described in fiction the ecstasy that can precede a TLE seizure, while van Gogh's phenomenal artistic output in the late 1880s is also characteristic of TLE. Rare among diseases, TLE crosses the
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The author draws together a number of case studies and interweaves current thinking about a disorder that sometimes results in disability, sometimes in genius, and which has been shown to involve the personality although exact interrelationships are unclear. The material has been well-researched, but the dramatized case studies cloud rather than clarify the presentation. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
William Beatty
LaPlante begins her consideration of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which may affect as many as two million Americans, with the work of researcher-physicians Hughlings Jackson, Wilder Penfield, and, most recently, Norman Geschwind. She then examines the cases of three patients who represent different manifestations of the disorder. A malady of concern to both neurology and psychiatry, TLE in a single subject often involves several symptoms of the Geschwind syndrome: hypergraphia (frequent and detailed writing), manifested by such sufferers as Dostoevsky, Tennyson, and Proust; hyperreligiosity, apparent in Joan of Arc; and overreliance on others, experienced by some of the patients who allowed LaPlante access to their medical records, as were two other symptoms, aggression and diminished or increased sexuality. Since TLE sufferers are sometimes diagnosed as schizophrenics and since causes and treatments are still being investigated, the disease is a concern of ongoing inquiry. For readers who want to join the inquiry, LaPlante's thoughtful and informative effort concludes with a long list of other reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060166731
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 256

Table of Contents

Preface
1 A Classic Case 1
2 Pioneers 11
3 Ordinary People 41
4 Mental States 87
5 Personality 130
6 Intervention 170
7 Body and Mind 210
Selected Sources 229
Acknowledgments 241
Index 243
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2004

    Temporal lobe epilepsy has some saving graces after all.

    At last, someone has brightly highlighted TLE's effects on behavior and personality. Eve LaPlante has elucidated in clear and sympathetic language the Geschwind constellation of personality traits often found in patients afflicted with TLE. LaPlante's SEIZED is a welcome guidepost for those like me who navigate daily life burdened with a fixation on the question of God, a relentless impulse to write, and the other often embarrassing TLE personality 'quirks.' This well-researched and infinitely readable book also offers an interesting examination of several literary and artistic men of genius who very likely had TLE--Vincent van Gogh, Gustave Flaubert, Lewis Carroll, Marcel Proust, Tennyson and Dostoevsky. LaPlante's medical detective work invites the TLE afflicted into a comradery with these artistic luminaries. This is no small consolation for us--we who constantly struggle with auras and feelings of isolation and odd symptoms that resemble psychiatric disease. Blessings upon Eve, in gratitude.

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