Neurology | Hektoen International

Discovering migraines

Catherine Lanser Madison, Wisconsin (Fall 2017)   My headaches started after my first period when I was a freshman in high school. They were dull, daily, aching headaches that were manageable. I usually just took some acetaminophen and they went away. But none had been as bad as the one gripping me on one memorable […]

Left-handedness: is it the winner’s curse?

Isuri Upeksha Wimalasiri General Sir John Kotelawela Defence University, Kandawela Estate, Ratmalana, Sri Lanka  (Fall 2017)   Writing left-handed Most human beings, some 85% to 95%, are right-handed, and the remainder consists mainly of left-handers and a negligibly small number of ambidextrous people. Hand orientation is decided during intrauterine life, but if a child shows hand […]

“I shouldn’t know you again if we did meet:” Prosopagnosia

Sylvia R. Karasu New York City, NY (Fall 2017)   Figure 1. Chuck Close, Self-Portrait (1997) (Museum of Modern Art, New York City) Watching Black Narcissus, the eerily unsettling film1 about an order of nuns cloistered in an isolated, windswept convent perched within the Himalayas, I am struggling to differentiate one nun from another.  I see […]

Joseph Babinski of the Babinski Sign

In 1848 populist revolutions swept across Europe, in Germany, France, and Italy – and also in Poland, where an uprising to gain independence from Russia was ruthlessly suppressed. To escape the repression that followed, Aleksander and Henryieta Babinski fled to France. Their son Joseph was born there in 1857, in Paris – not in Poland […]

Locked-in syndrome: inside the cocoon

Anika Khan Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (Spring 2017)   Jean-Dominique Bauby ‘dictating’ the passages of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly that he had earlier revised in his head. (Photograph: Jeanloup Sieff) “…what will you carry back from this field trip into my endless solitude?” From The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by […]

Revisiting a medical classic

James L. Franklin Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, United States   Théophile Alajouanine (1890–1980) Théophile Alajouanine delivered the Harveian Lecture to the Harveian Society of London on March 17, 1948. It was published in the journal Brain in September 1948 and became a medical classic, most frequently cited in papers devoted to the neurology […]

How will I change three buses to get to that hospital?

Bindu Desai Northwestern Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, United States (Spring 2014)   The call from the emergency room surprised me. In all my years as a neurologist I had never heard of an ‘acute syrinx.’ In a cubicle in the emergency room lay a man in his mid-thirties. He said he had been drinking heavily the […]

Pascal’s disease

Bo Laestadius Stockholm, Sweden (Winter 2016)   The French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal was born in 1623. At the age of twelve he had already studied Euclid´s geometry on his own and had written a paper about sound waves. A few years later he designed and built a calculator. In mathematics he has […]

On not remembering faces

Christopher C. Hemond Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States (Winter 2012)   MRI of the visual cortex area responsible for facial recognition The comedian Groucho Marx once said, “I never forget a face, but for you I’ll make an exception.” Inside his humor appears an extraordinary truth—the human ability to effortlessly perceive a face […]

Oliver Sacks and seeing beyond synecdoche

Colleen Donnelly (Fall 2015)   Thus she was a ‘moron’, ‘fool’, a ‘booby’, or so had appeared and so been called, throughout her whole life, but one with an unexpected, strangely moving, poetic power.  Superficially she was a mass of handicaps and incapacities, with the intense frustrations and anxieties attendant on these; at this level […]