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Neurological letter from Marseilles
  1. Russell M Hewett
  1. Correspondence to Dr Russell M Hewett, Department of Neurology, Institute of Neurological Sciences, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, 1345 Govan Rd, Glasgow G51 4TF, UK; russell.hewett{at}nhs.net

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You can see the connection between Marseilles and the study of epilepsy by just looking at the shape of Notre-Dame de la Garde

On an early reconnaissance trip to Marseilles (figures 1 and 2), I was introduced to Professor Patrick Chauvel and Professor Fabrice Bartolomei. Both are leading clinical neurophysiologists at Hôpital La Timone, where I would spend two periods of my neurological training gaining experience in epilepsy and the presurgical assessment of epilepsy.

Figure 1

Location of Marseilles. Image taken from Google Maps.

Figure 2

Coat of Arms of Marseilles.

As well as welcoming me wholeheartedly on that early visit, they reinforced the connection between epilepsy and Marseilles by demonstrating the obvious similarity between the highest monument in Marseilles—the cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde—and the classic spike and wave electroencephalography (EEG) tracing (figure 3).

Figure 3

The shape of the Notre Dame de la Garde and the ‘spike and wave’ superimposed.

The earliest record of medical activity is found in the histories of the well-respected Greek physicians during the Roman times some 600 years after their Greek trader forebears had founded the city of Massilia.1 This makes Marseilles the oldest city in France and currently the second largest, as well as the capital of the ‘PACA’ region that covers the huge area of Provence, the lower Alps and the Côte d'Azur. It has developed a rich heritage as one of the major trading ports of the Mediterranean and with that a unique complex cultural identity.

Twentieth century Marseilles saw the work of such celebrated physicians as Étienne-Louis Fallot …

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