Article Text

other Versions

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}

Statistics from

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.


Anyone that spends time in another country, and is not fluent in the language, knows that following the flow of conversation during initial meetings is near impossible. It is not the speed of delivery that causes the problem, but the use of medical jargon. Here is a quiz.

1. Déjà vu (easy one).

2. Déjà-vécu.

3. Crises épileptiques.

4. L’état de mal.

5. Les pertes de connaissance.

6. Troubles végétatifs.

7. Une morsure latérale de langue.

8. Une rupture du contact.

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 …

View Full Text

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.