The mystery of Alice in Wonderland syndrome

According to the BBCAlice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) affects how people perceive the world around them and can distort how they experience their body and the space it occupies. The symptoms of the said syndrome can include distortions in vision as well as distortions in time. Imagine that throughout your life you see people’s faces become elongated and look like a dragon. This symptom is only one of the 40 types of visual distortions that characterize Alice in Wonderland syndrome.

Some patients also report seeing body parts being added to the bodies of the people in front of them, such as a short arm being added to the face of the person sitting across from them. Other symptoms include seeing people or objects moving slowly or very quickly or standing still.

The hearing of Todd syndrome patients can also be affected. Sufferers may find that people around them speak unusually slowly or quickly. They also report seeing objects or parts of their bodies grow smaller or larger, creating the sensation that their body is changing size, as Josh experienced.

The last symptom, the change in body size, is what led to the name of the disorder, which is derived from a fictional character in a Lewis Carroll story who would shrink after drinking a certain potion and grow bigger after eating cake. Maybe Carol herself because of him Migraines (temporary visual disturbances that often occur in migraineurs) are inspired by perceptual distortions. Some have suggested that the author may have suffered from Alice in Wonderland syndrome caused by epilepsy, substance abuse, or even an infection.

Although Alice in Wonderland syndrome was officially described by doctors as a distinct syndrome in 1955, and some symptoms were recorded even earlier than that, the exact causes of this syndrome remain a mystery. As researchers try to unravel the mysteries of this strange condition, they hope to gain vital insights into how the brain interprets the world around it.

Because of the signals from our different senses combined with our past experiences, each of us perceives the world differently than others. In other words, we all exist in our own unique reality. Moheb Kastandi, a neuroscientist and author of a book about Alice in Wonderland syndrome, says: “Perception is not just a passive process of seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting or smelling, but an active process. The brain acts on incoming sensory stimuli based on our past experiences and biases. The way we perceive stimuli affects the way we act, and the way we act affects what we perceive.

But sometimes perception may be disturbed; Like when people have hallucinations or delusions. When our perception of ourselves and the world we live in is distorted, we run the risk of losing our sense of self and becoming depersonalized. We may even perceive the world as unreal and suffer from “distortion of reality”.

In the past, Alice in Wonderland syndrome was usually considered a condition that was largely harmless and did not require medical intervention. Some degree of symptoms has been reported in the general population, and about 30% of adolescents report mild or transient experiences of the syndrome. Some antitussives and illegal hallucinogens also trigger this condition.

Although sometimes the change in our perception of the world has another hidden cause. A wide range of causes including Stroke, brain tumors, aneurysm (enlargement or protrusion of the artery wall due to weakness of the artery wall), viral infections, Epilepsy, migraine, eye diseases and mental disorders such as Depression and Schizophrenia has been suggested as a cause of Alice in Wonderland syndrome in both children and adults. The condition has also been associated with infections such as Lyme disease, H1N1 influenza, and coxsackievirus B1. One study even identified it as one of the effects of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rapidly progressive and often fatal neurodegenerative disorder.

Jan Dirk Blom, professor of clinical psychopathology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who is one of the researchers who specifically studied Alice in Wonderland syndrome, emphasizes that doctors should take patients who describe these symptoms seriously. Bloom says the diagnosis and recognition of Alice in Wonderland syndrome has not progressed much in the past few decades, and the problem may go undiagnosed in patients for years.

Gillian Harris from Pulborough in West Sussex, England, while suffering from Alice in Wonderland syndrome since childhood, was diagnosed with this condition six years ago at the age of 48. “As a child, I sometimes felt like everything was further away from me, and when I was a teenager, I realized that my hands and feet were very large,” she says. At the age of 16, he was diagnosed with epilepsy and was treated.

However, there is little research that provides clues as to why Alice in Wonderland syndrome affects some people but not others. “It is possible that genetics play a role in the susceptibility to Alice in Wonderland syndrome in some people, although this requires experimental confirmation,” says Bloom.

In children, encephalitis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus is the most common cause of Alice in Wonderland syndrome, while in adults this syndrome is often associated with migraine.

Brain imaging suggests that Alice in Wonderland syndrome may be caused by dysfunction in an area of ​​the brain called the “temporal, parietal, occipital junction.” In this area, visual and spatial information is combined with signals about touch, body position, and pain. A change in this point of contact of sensory information due to lesion, nerve damage or swelling may change the way the brain interprets signals.

Bloom says more studies need to be done to understand what is going on in the brains of patients with Alice in Wonderland syndrome. But he believes the condition could provide vital clues about how the brain integrates information from the world around us. “I think AIWS can teach us that the process of perception is much more complex, more nuanced, and at the same time more balanced than we usually think,” says Bloom.

Sometimes, when even relatively large parts of the brain are damaged or even absent (as in prosopometamorphopsia disorder caused by gunshot wounds, which usually resolves within a few weeks), perception is not greatly affected, while in other cases, dysfunction of small clusters is present. of nerve cells can lead to significant and lasting changes in our perception.

This syndrome teaches us that the network required for visual perception has large parts that can be left out or compensated for by other parts, while if we want to be able to properly perceive basic aspects such as faces, lines, colors and motion, other parts It seems quite vital.

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