It Takes a Medical Sherlock Holmes to Solve Complex Neurological Mysteries

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, September 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

It Takes a Medical Sherlock Holmes to Solve Complex Neurological Mysteries


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


Is Sherlock Holmes the neurologist's alter ego?

Yes, according to the co-authors of a delightfully quirky paper published Wednesday in the journal Practical Neurology.

"Successful outcomes in neurological practice often turn on an ability to identify clues," write Dr. Peter Kempster, a neurologist at Monash University in Victoria, Australia, and Andrew Lees, a professor of neurology at University College London. "The skills of observation, inquiry and abductive reasoning that compose a good clinical technique have much in common with the methods used in the detection of crime."

The clinical case histories that neurologists have been publishing in medical journals since the 19th century often read like mystery stories, say the two neurologists.

"Like conventional detective stories, [the case histories] are reassuring, affirming the belief that even obscure neurological maladies can be diagnosed," they write.

Indeed, as the two neurologists point out, the British-American neurologist Oliver Sacks has masterfully turned such case histories into best-selling books.

"In many of [his neurological case histories]," say Kempster and Lees, "Sacks gives himself the role of detective -- observing, gently questioning and sometimes searching out clues in the streets or in the homes of his patients."

Sacks even gives his case histories Sherlock Holmesian titles, such as "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," "The Disembodied Lady" and "The Man Who Forgot How to Read."

Neurology's Agatha Christies

Several neurologists have actually turned to writing detective stories, Kempster and Lees point out. One of these was Dr. Harold Klawans (1937-1998), a noted authority on Parkinson's disease, who wrote five crime novels, including "Sins of Commission," which has a neurologist as its detective.

"Klawans developed this idea from a case that he and younger colleagues (who appeared, variously disguised, in the story) had seen in consultation," write Kempster and Lees. "...The main character is clearly the author at the pinnacle of his clinical power, and he is given Sherlock Holmes' capacity to observe details, infer other people's thoughts and perform astonishing feats of abductive thinking from seemingly minor clues."

Another neurologist, Peter Gautier-Smith, has written 31 crime books under the pen name Peter Conway. According to Kempster and Lees, Gautier-Smith started his fiction-writing career after making a bet with a friend that writing a novel would be a lot easier than writing a medical monograph on parasagittal meningioma, which he was struggling to finish at the time. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

It Takes a Medical Sherlock Holmes to Solve Complex Neurological Mysteries
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.