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Enigmatic ‘fits’: organic, psychogenic, both or neither?
  1. Gerald Stern
  1. Correspondence to Dr G Stern, Emeritus Consultant Neurologist, University College Hospitals, London WC1, UK; geraldsterniii{at}

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…exponum cogitans esse properandum quod, ut dicitur, si est homo bulla, eo magis senex. Annus enim octogesimus admonet me ut sarcinus conligum, antequam proficiscar e vita… But now I must set it out as best I can, reflecting that I need hurry: they say man is a bubble, and an old man is all the more so. My eightieth year reminds me to gather up my luggage before I depart… Marcus Terentius Varro, 116–27 BC

From the age of 12 to 21, he had ‘both major fits and minor episodes of blankness averaging about once a week’. Serial EEGs showed mildly abnormal changes but without epileptic paroxysmal changes. He was reviewed by many clinicians and was treated with antiepileptic medication, with only modest benefit.

In October 1963, he read an article in the New Scientist titled, ‘What too much vitamin A does to cells’, and concluded that dietary vitamin A was responsible from his epilepsy. He eliminated vitamin A from his diet and during the next 5 years suffered only one attack, which he attributed to a dietary indiscretion. He became convinced that his diet and freedom from fits were connected. Certainly, his diet was very efficient; his serum levels were the lowest recorded in the UK.1

By March of 1971, his vision was failing (acuity 6/12) …

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  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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