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Ancient Dancing Outbreak Believed to Be a Case of Social Contagion

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icymist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-30-11 08:38 PM
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Ancient Dancing Outbreak Believed to Be a Case of Social Contagion
It was centuries ago, right around this time, when the city of Aachen, Germany, was struck by an unusual outbreak that, legend says, spread as far away as Madagascar.

According to the scant written accounts there are of the outbreak known as St. Vitus' Dance, back in 1374, groups of people -- sometimes thousands at a time -- started dancing uncontrollably. It continued for days, and in some cases, weeks and months. Some people reportedly danced until they collapsed from exhaustion or even death, while others suffered heart attacks and broken bones.

"One written account described people as united by one common delusion," said James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego.

The dancers also seemed to hallucinate and lose control of their senses, Fowler said.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ancient-dancing-outbreak-b...
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murielm99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-01-11 03:45 AM
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1. Another explanation has been ergotism.
Edited on Fri Jul-01-11 03:45 AM by murielm99
Ergotism is a disease caused by rye bread mold. The disease can cause people to dance around and twitch. Many people afflicted with it were accused of witchcraft.

Children did not get ergotism as often because their staple was porridge. If the rye was boiled, as it was for porridge, the ergot was killed. Don't ask me why it wasn't killed by baking the bread, but it wasn't.

I did once read that ergotism may even have been the explanation for the story of the Pied Piper. All the children who followed the piper were afflicted with ergotism. They were of course the older children, who ate the staple diet of rye bread, being old enough to chew the stuff, thus too old for porridge.
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icymist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-01-11 03:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Very Interesting.
Thank you for this. I would have never know to look there.
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Tyrs WolfDaemon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-01-11 04:29 PM
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3. Ergot was my first thought
I recall reading that ergot may have also been involved in some of the Salem Witch trials.

I do know that it has been used to treat migraines (I was given ergot derived medicine ages ago, but it didn't work for me)

here is some info on one such derivative from the Mayo Clinic:

Description

Dihydroergotamine and ergotamine belong to the group of medicines known as ergot alkaloids. They are used to treat severe, throbbing headaches, such as migraine and cluster headaches. Dihydroergotamine and ergotamine are not ordinary pain relievers. They will not relieve any kind of pain other than throbbing headaches. Because these medicines can cause serious side effects, they are usually used for patients whose headaches are not relieved by acetaminophen, aspirin, or other pain relievers.

Dihydroergotamine and ergotamine may cause blood vessels in the body to constrict (become narrower). This effect can lead to serious side effects that are caused by a decrease in the flow of blood (blood circulation) to many parts of the body.

more at source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602...
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WhiteTara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-06-11 09:42 AM
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5. That was what I read too about the outbreak.
I didn't know the theory of the pied piper. What a day that must have been.
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Chemisse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-04-11 08:37 PM
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4. I just finished reading a book that referenced this, as well as the Pied Piper incident.
Bellwether, by Connie Willis - really interesting novel about research into fads.
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