Chopin suffered from epilepsy, says research

January 25th, 2011 - 7:49 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 25 (IANS) Famed 19th century Polish composer Frederic Chopin was always haunted by terrifying visions of strange creatures crawling out of his piano. Those visions were caused by epilepsy, says a latest research.Chopin (1810-1849) regularly suffered from hallucinations, and his frailty and bouts of melancholy had earlier been put down to bipolar disorder or clinical depression.

He often appeared wild eyed or with his hair on end, and spoke of a “cohort of phantoms” tormenting him and once described a monastery where he had stayed as “full of terrors and ghosts”.

Plagued by poor health, he died of lung disease at the age of 39 in 1849.

Now, a research in journal Medical Humanities says that temporal lobe epilepsy, which can produce complex but brief hallucinations, was the likely cause for Chopin’s visions, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The team drew on correspondence written by the musician and accounts of his behaviour, including an episode in 1848 which saw him leave the stage midway through a performance without an explanation.

He later wrote to the daughter of French novelist George Sand about how he had seen creatures emerging from the piano, forcing him to leave the room.

The research authors say it is impossible to make a concrete diagnosis, but write: “A condition such as that described in this article could easily have been overlooked by Chopins doctors.”

“We doubt that another diagnosis added to the already numerous list will help us understand the artistic world of Frederic Chopin.”

“But we do believe that knowing he had this condition could help to separate romanticised legend from reality and shed new light in order to better understand the man and his life.”

The authors say schizophrenia is less likely as an explanation, as hallucinations caused by this disorder are usually auditory, and also rule out migraine, because of Chopin’s age and the briefness of his visions.

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