Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jumping Frenchman of Maine Disorder

Jumping Frenchman of Maine Disorder - This disorder is caused by a mutation of the genes that regulate the nervous system, causing a person with this disorder to exhibit extremely over exagerated responses when startled.

Another facet of this disorder is an automatic response to a command, delivered in a stern voice. For example, if someone barked an order to throw down a cup of hot coffee, the patient will do so in spite of the consequences.

From "

The "Jumping Frenchmen" seemed to react abnormally to sudden stimuli. Beard recorded, for instance, individuals who would obey any command given suddenly, even if it meant striking a loved one, and repeat back unfamiliar or foreign phrases uncontrollably. Beard also noticed that the condition was often shared within a family, suggesting that it was inherited.

The interest sparked by Beard's publication about the disorder inspired Georges Gilles de la Tourette to investigate what later became known as Tourette's syndrome. Further studies of the condition in the 1980s, however, cast doubt on whether the "Jumping Frenchmen" phenomenon was in fact a physical condition like Tourette's. Documentation of direct observation of "Jumping Frenchmen" has been scarce, and while videotape evidence was recorded by several researchers that showed the condition to be real, Saint-Hilaire concluded from studying eight affected people that it was brought on by conditions at their lumber camps and was psychological, not neurological."

Friday, February 16, 2007

More Google Answers

Retirement Syndrome

Hair Treatment

Using Plastic in the Microwave

Gall Bladder Surgery

Curtain Hooks & Coins

As a young college graduate, working third shift in a local hospital, I saw a lot of unusual things, and one particular repeat patient left a lasting impression on me. She swallowed things, things like curtain hooks, and large safety pins. She also inserted curtain hooks into her bladder. Today, I wish I had a collection of her x-rays! I couldn't understand why anyone would want to insert such objects inside their body. Needless to say, patients like this young woman are mentally disturbed, usually in a variety of ways.

All types of odd things are swallowed by disturbed and intoxicated folks!

This picture is an x-ray of a 62 year old Frenchman, who died after swallowing 350 coins!

The complete story can be found here:

Bruce Goldfarb writes about some unusual cases, such as the man who impaled a power drill in his brain. Even so, he had the where with all to press the reverse switch on the drill to remove it!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Spontaneous Remission

Breast Cancer Cells
Photo courtesy of Flickr

"Memorial Sloan-Kettering President Lewis Thomas, MD, once said: "The rare but spectacular phenomenon of spontaneous remission of cancer persists in the annals of medicine, totally inexplicable but real, a hypothetical straw to clutch in the search for cure. . . . No one doubts the validity of the observation."

Up to 19 percent of some cancers heal themselves, researchers discover. It baffles doctors — but it may be the key to understanding the power of the mind."

Placebo effect or some biochemical connection?

" A number of papers discuss possible mechanisms by which spontaneous remission of cancer might occur. The most popular suggestion is some form of immunological reaction, though this is still unproven (Lokich J, 1997; Heim ME, Kobele C, 1995). There seems to be a connection between fever and remission of cancer (Murakawa M et al., 1990); fever in childhood or adulthood may protect against the later onset of cancer and spontaneous remissions are often preceded by feverish infections (Kleef R et al., 2001). The case of remission following myxoedema coma (Hercbergs A, 1999) suggests that hypothyroidism may trigger apoptosis (cell death) in tumours. Yet another idea is that DNA methylation, which is involved in cell differentiation, may play a part (Sugimura T, Ushijama T, 2000). And there is a long-standing impression that psychological states influence the functioning of the immune system.

In summary, then, while the mechanisms of spontaneous remission are by no means fully understood, there are plausible suggestions to explain the phenomenon."

For more information, visit these sites:


Spontaneous Remissions

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007


In the hospital, a patient's relatives gathered in the waiting room, where their family member lay gravely ill. Finally, the doctor came in looking tired and somber. "I'm afraid I am the bearer of bad news," he said as he surveyed the worried faces. "The only hope left for your loved one at this time is a brain transplant. It's an experimental procedure, semi-risky, and you will have to pay for the brain yourselves."

The family members sat silent as they absorbed the news. At last, someone asked, "Well, how much does a brain cost?"

The doctor quickly responded, "$200 for a female brain, and $500 for a male brain."

The moment turned awkward. Men in the room tried not to smile, avoiding eye contact with the women, but some actually smirked. A girl, unable to control her curiosity, blurted out the question everyone wanted to ask, "Why is the male brain so much more?"

The doctor smiled at her childish innocence and then said, "It's a standard pricing procedure. We have to mark the female brains down, because they're used!"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Alström Syndrome

Alström Syndrome is a very rare genetic disease, with only 431 reported cases worldwide, with more cases reported in Holland and Sweden, than the US. A child must inherit the gene from both parents to be affected, as this is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder.

Infants present with rapid back and forth motion (nystagmus) and light sensitivity (photophobia) which leads to retinal disintegration. Children gain weight, becoming obese. As they grow, most organs are affected as blindness and hearing loss sets in. Type 2 diabetes, liver and heart failure, pulmonary fibrosis and kidney failure often follow.

Hypothyroidism, scoliosis and short stature are other signs of Alström Syndrome

From the Alström Syndrome International web site:

The following manifestations are observed in most Alström Syndrome cases:

  • nystagmus and photodysphoria in early infancy
  • progressive pigmentary retinopathy (cone-rod dystrophy) leading to blindness
  • childhood obesity, often moderating to high-normal weight in adulthood
  • mild to moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss
  • congestive heart failure secondary to dilated cardiomyopathy in infancy or early adulthood
  • normal extremities / absence of polydactyly or syndactyly
  • hyperinsulinemia / insulin resistance
  • non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes or NIDDM) developing in early adulthood
  • progressive chronic nephropathy that presents as tubular dysfunction
  • normal intelligence with some reports of delayed early developmental milestones

For additional information, visit this Medline site:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva

This is another rare genetic disease, affecting only 1 in 2,000,000 people globally. Simply put, the white blood cells mistakenly destroy healthy muscle tissue instead of invading bacteria. Not only that, but a protein called BMP, normally used to build normal bone, begins to ossify (turn to bone) muscle.

Researchers suspect that the gene responsible for forming fetal bone fails to "switch off" and continues attempting to produce bone. The exact gene has not yet been discovered.

Picture from Mütter Museum, College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Reprinted from the New England Journal of Medicine

Read more here:

USCF Children's Hospital



Williams Syndrome

Williams Syndrome
is a rare genetic disease, caused by a deletion of genes on chromosome 7. There is no cure, and the condition manifests itself with elevated calcium levels during infancy. As children Williams Syndrome kids display over-friendliness, with no fear of strangers. Mild to moderate retardation and cardiovascular disease are other symptoms of this disease. WS patients are often short in stature, with distinctive facial features, including a wide mouth, small chin, eye puffiness and a short nose.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

For more information, visit:

The Williams Syndrome Association

NCBI-Johns Hopkins University

Some Favorite Google Answers

West Nile Update

According to the CDC, as of 3am, February 6, 2007, there were 4,219 human cases of West Nile in the US. Visit the CDC Disease map to see how your state rates. Simply click on your state to get figures from each county.

Your risk of contracting WNV (West Nile Virus) is very low, and less than 1%, of those infected go on to develop serious symptoms, according to the NBII. Of course, very young children, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system are highest at risk,

To avoid WNV:

  • clear out any standing water and debris from around your home.
  • wear long sleeves, long pants and shoes and socks when outdoors in a mosquito infested area
  • stay indoors from dusk to dawn, peak mosquito activity time
  • use a DEET ( N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) containing mosquito repellant
  • repair holes in window screens
  • report dead birds to your local health authorities. Do not handle the dead birds yourself!

Alice-in-Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS)

Alice-in-Wonderland Syndrome is so named, because patients afflicted with this disorder perceive themselves and their surroundings as distorted. Body shapes, buildings, and even time seems surreal. Hands, heads and legs may appear to be growing, or “morphing” into odd shapes to these patients. Patients may report they feel like they are walking on a treadmill, or walking on sponges. Perspectives and distances are seen as longer or shorter than they are. Often seen in children, this mental illness can be seen in adults as well.

AIWS is beleived to be triggered by epilepsy, migraine headaches, or even the “mono” virus-Epstein-Barr; all of which can cause irritations or dysfunction of brain neurons.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

For more information, visit:

The Register