September 26, 2007

Restless Legs Syndrome

Two new papers outline the existence of three genes that can account for 70% of RLS. This runs counter to one commonly held perception of the condition: that it has a non-organic origin.

The function of the identified genes seem to be involved generally in the development of spinal cord sensory pathways and lower extremity development. This seems to correlate wiell with the symptomatology of RLS and its counterpart Periodic Leg Movements of Sleep.

Winkelmann J, Meitinger T, et al. Genome-wide association study of restless legs syndrome identifies common variants in three genomic regions. Nature Genet 2007;39:1000-1006


Another article of Oliver Sack's recently appeared in the September 24, 2007 New Yorker. In the form of an example driven narrative, it relays the story of Clive Wearing, a musician and musicologist, who became amnestic following a bout of encephalitis which damaged his medial temporal lobes and then some. The article doesn't clearly delineate the areas involved. His life after the illnes has been documented in a documentary and memoir by his wife.

His amnesia is characterized as the inability to form new memories as well as to remember parts of his past. He lives persistently in the present. There is no past and thereby an isolated present. His journal records this disconcerting reality as he repeatedly writes such statements as "I am conscious" and "This time I am properly awake," only to contradict himself a line later. This example of his condition is one of the more striking relayed in the article.

Clive's life, on the edge of the abyss or in the abyss, the metaphor used in the article which lends it its title, reveals how important memory is to making us fully human and conscious.

The idea of joking disease or Witzelsucht was presented in the article. This results from damage to the frontal lobes.