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The “voices” of Joan of Arc and epilepsy with auditory features

  • Giuseppe d'Orsi
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Department of Neurological Sciences, Epilepsy Centre, — Clinic of Nervous System Diseases, University of Foggia, Ospedali Riuniti, Via Luigi Pinto 1, 71100 Foggia, Italy. Tel.: +39 0881 736125; fax: +39 0881 732553.
    Affiliations
    Epilepsy Centre, — Clinic of Nervous System Diseases, University of Foggia, Ospedali Riuniti, Foggia, Italy
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  • Paolo Tinuper
    Affiliations
    IRCCS Institute of Neurological Sciences of Bologna, Italy

    Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
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      Inspired by mysterious “voices” and visions, Joan of Arc led the French army during the Hundred Years' War, and some medical researchers have been tempted to explain the mystery of her “voices” as the result of epileptic seizures. In particular, Foote-Smith and Bayne [
      • Foote-Smith E.
      • Bayne L.
      Joan of Arc.
      ] suggested in 1991 that the “voices”, visions, and convictions may, in part, be considered ecstatic epileptic auras, as in the case of Dostoevsky. After a strictly semiologic study, focusing on symptoms and possible trigger factors obtained from the documentation of her Trial of Condemnation, we first hypothesized in 2006 [
      • d'Orsi G.
      • Tinuper P.
      I heard voices…”: from semiology, a historical review and a new hypothesis on the presumed Joan of Arc's epilepsy.
      ] that the “voices” of Joan of Arc were probably auditory epileptic hallucinations and an expression of an epileptic syndrome named idiopathic partial epilepsy with auditory features (IPEAF) [
      • Bisulli F.
      • Tinuper P.
      • Avoni P.
      • et al.
      Idiopathic partial epilepsy with auditory features (IPEAF): a clinical and genetic study of 53 sporadic cases.
      ]. Recently, Nicastro and Piccard [
      • Nicastro N.
      • Picard F.
      Joan of Arc: sanctity, witchcraft or epilepsy?.
      ] and Kamtchum-Tatuene and Fogang [
      • Kamtchum-Tatuene J.
      • Fogang Y.
      Comment on Joan of Arc: sanctity, witchcraft or epilepsy?.
      ] have debated on Joan of Arc “voices”, supporting and refuting, respectively, our hypothesis.
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