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Migraine News for April 1999

Migraine aura symptoms gave rise to "Adventures in Wonderland"


WESTPORT, Apr 20 (Reuters Health) - Migraine aura may have been the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's descriptions of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," physicians suggest in a letter published in the April 17th issue of The Lancet.

Coining the term "Alice in Wonderland syndrome" to refer to certain hallucinations specific to migraine, Lippman first suggested in the 1950s that Carroll may have used his own migraine experiences in writing "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (1865) and the sequel "Through the Looking Glass" (1871).

In recent years, however, this theory has been refuted because no mention of migraine could be found in the writer's journals before he wrote the Alice stories. Now, Drs. Klaus Podoll of the University of Technology in Aachen, Germany, and Derek Robinson of Berkshire, UK, report previously overlooked clues to support the relationship.


"Two pieces of evidence, a drawing and a diary entry, which previously escaped notice, suggest that Carroll had already experienced visual migraine aura symptoms before the conception of this first Alice book," they write.

A picture that appeared on the cover of "Mischmasch," a Carroll family magazine published between 1855 and 1862, is missing an area. The space resembles a depiction of the visual defect associated with negative scotoma.

Also, in a January 12, 1856 diary entry, Carroll wrote: "Consulted Mr. Bowman, the oculist, about my right eye: he does not seem to think anything can be done to remedy it, but recommends me not to read long at a time, nor at the railway, and to keep to large type by candlelight."

The physicians suggest that it is likely that Carroll's visual complaints were manifestations of migraine, a symptom that was not widely recognized by the medical profession at the time.

They believe the "...thesis that at least some of Alice's adventures were based on Carroll's personal migraine aura perceptions...would explain the otherwise inexplicable similarities between the experiences described in the two Alice books and the semeiology of migraine aura symptoms both in the visual and somesthetic domain."

Lancet 1999;353:1366.
-From Reuters News
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