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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
  1. Mo Hu,
  2. Tom A T Hughes
  1. Department of Neurosciences, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mo Hu, Neurosciences, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff CF14 4XW, UK;{at}

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In the spring of 2009, Susannah Cahalan was the 217th person to be diagnosed with anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor encephalitis, and this book chronicles both her ‘lost month’ before the diagnosis was made and her subsequent recovery. Most of the group found the narrative to be engaging even though it jumps between autobiography, factual references, fiction and hallucinations as it charts the breakdown and then improvement of Susannah’s mental state. We realised early on that the book is written by a journalist who has a broken and fragmented memory of many of the most important events but who has used her professional skills to piece together—using witness descriptions, medical notes and even video footage—a credible and readable account of the whole time she was affected by this terrible illness.

Our discussion began with the early non-physical symptoms on display as Susannah’s reality gradually became distorted. These included obsession, suspicion, hostility and finally an obvious …

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  • Contributors MH wrote the original manuscript. TATH editted the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.