Carta a Mr. Wunnicke


Dear Mr. Wunnicke,

I am not a neurologist, I am a neurosurgeon. It is unfortunate that as a self-proclaimed historian, you are part of the frenzy of political correctness in the United States, which is as false as the virtuosity of the Victorian age in England. The use of euphemisms “ad nauseum” pretending to seem virtuous without risking controversy or hurting anybody’s feelings is nothing more than the unwillingness to see other people’s views. This attitude indulges conformity in a complex and ever changing intellectual environment, at the expense of contempt for the few ones that are daring to do it. Only through genuine debate, free of pseudo-moralistic censorship, can there be reform in our way of thinking and communicating.

With regard to the irony that sublimates the comment of the possible relation between Jazz and addictive alkaloids, allow me to make some points.

First, the late Dr. Theodore Rasmussen (Director of the Montreal Neurosurgical Institute at McGill University, who also happened to be my mentor), arguably the foremost contributor to the understanding and surgical treatment of temporal lobe seizure, was also a superb saxophone player. During one of his trips to the Osler Clinic in Monterrey Mexico (He delivered the first Sir. William Osler Lecture at my Clinic) he once told me that during his College years (in his natal Utah), occasionally he would smoke a marihuana joint prior to his audition. He felt the pharmacological stimuli enabled him to obtain higher notes with the saxophone. Dr. Rasmussen was eventually dubbed “hot lips Ted,” for his excellent performance as a saxophonist. He was the first one to bring to my attention the fact that Gershwin suffered from seizures as a result of his right temporal lobe tumor. Dr. Rasmussen also brought to my attention that there was a frantic search for Dr. Walter Dandy, who was in a holiday and could not operate on the author of Rhapsody in blue, when he became severely ill in the summer of 1937 in California.

Second, Dr. Annie Courtois, a neuroscientist at Montreal University (where I obtained by PHD in Neurophysiology under Dr. Herbert Jasper),in 1965 studied the electroencephalographic changes with voluntary students at the research laboratory while smoking marihuana. This and many other studies have shown that trains of theta activity would appeared in their temporal lobes, similar to the ones also observed in subjects who had non convulsive seizures with hallucinations (particularly musical ones, like the one elicited by Dr. Penfield in the operating room with awake subjects during stimulation of the right temporal lobe) or sensations of elation or depersonalization.

Third, during the last 40 years at the Osler Clinic in Monterrey Mexico, I have treated and studied approximately five thousand people with seizures and performed 435 operations in patient with pharmacologically resistant epilepsy, of which 70 percent had temporal lobe epilepsy. I have authored and co-authored more than 20 publications in English and Spanish in different Journals in this field, as well as three books in English. Among these numerous cases, I encountered two patients whom made their living writing or composing musical plays. As their epileptic “foci” was in the right temporal lobe and the seizures were worsening, I performed a right temporal lobectomy in them both. They mentioned after surgery that the seizures have disappeared but also their inspiration, of course the trade was worth it according to them.

Fourth, in the eighties I was invited to attend the 50 years Jubilee at the MNI. At that time, arguably the foremost authority in the neurophysiology of the temporal lobe, Dr. Peter Gloor, treated me for dinner. We had Burch and Stroganoff beef prepared by his lovely Russian wife, who was also an accomplished painter. The diner climatically ended with Bach’s fugs played by Peter in his XVIII century clavichord. At this time, I mentioned to Peter my work on the Epilepsy of Van Gogh, whom certainly portrayed several of Norman Geshwind (the father of Behavioral Neurology from Harvard) personality characteristics like his religiosity, hypergraphy, sticky personality, mood swings including aggressive and delusional behavior. My findings concluded that Van Gogh symptoms and signs revealed that he had a left facial atrophy-suggesting right temporal lobe lesion- that I have found measuring many of his dozens of self-portraits-. When I mentioned to Peter about the possibility that this genius (the father of Expressionism, Fauvism and Impressionism) could have a lesion in the right temporal lobe, he brought to my attention Henry Gasstaut’s paper on Gustave Flaubert, which concluded that the latter had left temporal lobe seizures. Thus, Peter told me that he wouldn’t be surprised that Van Gogh would have suffered from a hyperactive interictial right temporal lobe lesion.

Finally, as you are probably aware by now, “BS” in Internet for some people can merely be flat ignorance for others.

Eduardo Garcia Flores MD

Monterrey Mexico.

(Imagen tomada de Internet / Derechos reservados por el autor)