Did Chopin have epilepsy?
January 24th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Did Chopin have epilepsy?

Frédéric François Chopin may have died in 1849, but he's still picking up credits for music in movies, such as the rebooted "Karate Kid" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." And, even more surprising, doctors are still trying to diagnose his condition.

Chopin, who had bad health throughout his life, had some kind of pulmonary illness that led to his death at age 39, and whatever that was is still up for debate. Was it cystic fibrosis? Tuberculosis? The world may never know, but doctors and music enthusiasts are still guessing.

Now, two Spanish researchers are tackling a different side of Chopin's health: The strange behavior and visions he reportedly saw on several occasions. They report in the journal Medical Humanities that Chopin may have had temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition that hadn't yet been described in medical literature during the composer's lifetime. Dr. John Hughlings Jackson is credited with advancing the understanding of epilepsy and epileptic seizures in the 1870s.

It's therefore practically impossible for Chopin's doctors to have suspected epilepsy, but the hallucinations seem to fit that diagnosis, said Dr. Manuel Vazquez Caruncho, radiologist at the Complexo Hospitalario Xeral-Calde in Lugo, Spain, and lead author of the study.

"What interested me was separating the romantic vision of Chopin from the reality," Vazquez Caruncho said. "Many people, in his era and afterward, interpreted his hallucinations as the manifestation of a very sensitive soul."

In 1848, Chopin wrote in a letter to the daughter of his girlfriend George Sand:

A strange adventure happened to me while I was playing my B flat Sonata for some English friends. I had played the Allegro and the Scherzo more or less correctly and I was about to play the March when, suddenly, I saw emerging from the half-open case of my piano those cursed creatures that had appeared to me on a lugubrious night at the Carthusian monastery [Majorca]. I had to leave for a while in order to recover myself, and after that I continued playing without saying a word

On another occasion, Sand wrote, Chopin thought he saw his father and his friend Jan Matuszynski in a hallucination while he had a high fever after a dental infection.

The letters reveal that Chopin's hallucinations seem to have lasted from seconds to minutes, and that he mostly had these experiences in the evenings or when sick with a fever.

Study authors note that it is possible to have a migraine aura without a headache, but this usually occurs in people over 50. They also rule out toxicity, although Chopin did take many remedies for his maladies such as "opium drops on sugar." Visual hallucinations from toxicity are usually abstract, but Chopin recalled his more vividly, and started having them before taking frequent medication.

Other indications that Chopin had epilepsy include the symptoms of anxiety, fear, and insomnia that can precede epileptic episodes, which Chopin appears to have experienced as well. He also experienced a dreamy state of "jamais vu" - in which a familiar situation seems at the same time unfamiliar - that has been documented as part of epileptic seizures.

It is unknown whether epilepsy could have influenced Chopin's music, but we know that the sadness of exile in Paris, as well as poor health, could have contributed to the melancholy of his music, Vazquez Caruncho said.

soundoff (149 Responses)
  1. dapoxetine

    dapoxetine usa dapoxetine pills

    May 1, 2021 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. canadian pharmacy no perscription generic cialis

    canadian generic cialis 20mg https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian pharmacy for cialis

    May 2, 2021 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. avanafil

    avanafil 200 avanafil buy

    May 4, 2021 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. WilliamPeesy

    In any the actuality, the standards of profitable news-casting haven't been ready of through this weighty web index. Google in actuality thinks often to the look and substance of articles, uncommonly as a component of its XML. Vast news-casting is tied in with being straightforward and as level headed as could be expected.

    Benefit of what saneness do you think the Google XML sitemap creeps, lists, and distributes visitor position soothe from CNN, BBC, Techcrunch, The Impediment Boulevard Magazine and others in its incline items?

    my blog


    May 6, 2021 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. chloroquine nz

    choloriquine https://chloroquineorigin.com/ aralen for lupus

    May 6, 2021 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. priligy

    dapoxetine 100 mg priligy 60 mg

    May 8, 2021 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. cyclosporine

    buy cyclomune usa cyclosporine lab tube

    May 15, 2021 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. combigan

    buy brimonidine brimonidine tartrate

    May 15, 2021 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. avanafil

    buy avanafil canada buy avanafil

    May 16, 2021 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. chloroquineorigin

    hydroxychloroquine hydroxychloroquine dolquine buy chloroquine https://chloroquineorigin.com/

    May 21, 2021 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. tausAffessy

    best price usa tadalafil tadalafil online tadalafil blood pressure tadalafil blood pressure https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ – generic cialis tadalafil

    May 23, 2021 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. brimonidine

    combigan brimonidine eye drops

    May 24, 2021 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. combigan

    buy brimonidine online combigan uk

    May 24, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Soosteemocush

    https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ cialis cost https://tadalafilww.com/ – canada generic tadalafil cialis tadalafil

    May 24, 2021 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Tembepteriope

    tadalafil dosage best price usa tadalafil side effects for tadalafil https://tadagatadalafil.com/

    May 24, 2021 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. cyclosporine

    cyclosporine ophthalmic cyclosporine eye drops

    May 24, 2021 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. tausAffessy

    buy tadalis where to buy generic cialis online safely cialis without a prescription buy tadalafil https://tadalafilol.com/

    May 24, 2021 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Tembepteriope

    https://tadalafilww.com/ buy cialis pills what is tadalafil cheap generic cialis for sale tadalafil price walmart

    May 24, 2021 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. tausAffessy

    cialis at canadian pharmacy generic cialis online fast shipping canada generic tadalafil https://tadalafilww.com/

    May 25, 2021 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Tritreviewifind

    tadalafil cialis tadalafil liquid where to buy tadalafil on line tadalafil side effects https://tadacipetadalafil.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. brimonidine

    buy brimonidine online buy generic brimonidine

    May 26, 2021 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Tritreviewifind

    where to get tadalafil https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ tadalafil price walmart cheap generic cialis for sale cost tadalafil generic

    May 27, 2021 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Tembepteriope

    where to buy cialis without prescription https://tadalafilol.com/ – tadalafil cialis buy tadalafil tadalafil without a doctor prescription https://cttadalafil.com/

    May 27, 2021 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. cialis 20 mg

    best research tadalafil cialis generic cialis tadalafil

    June 5, 2021 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. lowest price cialis

    tadifil tadalafil online tuf 20 tadalafil

    June 7, 2021 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.