Medicine: Laugh and Lie Down

Every Pickwickian remembers the drowiness of Dickens' Fat Boy, whose master constantly prods him awake, crying: "Joe! —Damn that boy, he's gone to sleep again." Dickens did not know it, but Joe was a victim of a rare nervous disorder known as narcolepsy* (from the Greek narke, stupor, and lepsis, seizure). When narcoleptics experience certain emotions —anger, fear, grief, amusement—they crumple up, fall sound asleep. Less than 100 cases have ever been reported.

Last week, at a clinical session of George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D. C., Dr. Paul Fredericq...

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