The neurology of Alice in Wonderland

I’ve just discovered a fantastic short article on the curious neurological syndromes that appear in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was published a couple of years ago in a clinical neuroscience journal and is freely available online as a pdf file.

In fact, one condition, ‘Alice in Wonderland Syndrome’ is named after the book, and is otherwise known as micro or macrosomatognosia – a type of body image distortion where you feel you are very large or very small.

It was first reported by psychiatrist John Todd in a 1955 article that noted its connection with epilepsy and migraine.

There are a variety of other possible syndromes that appear in the story, however.

Dr Andrew Larner, author of the recent article, notes that stammering, mirror phenomena, and prosopagnosia all make an appearance.

In contrast, the strange behaviour of the ‘Mad Hatter’ was unlikely to have been inspired by the effects of mercury poisoning, supposedly a common result of working in the hat industry at the time, as he displays none of the typical features of this type of neurological impairment.

Instead, he’s likely have simply to have been based on an Oxford furniture dealer who was known for his eccentric behaviour.

pdf of article The Neurology of Alice.

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