It must be tough having a mental health problem but does it come with some advantages? Its hard to think of any until I came across this paper in Molecular Psychiatry. It suggests that bipolar disorder is probably more common in clever people. The authors studied records of > 1 million Swedish men to test the hypothesis that creativity is associated with profound mood swings. Indeed the study found that those blessed with a high IQ are probably prone to pure bipolar disorder.
No, Will Smith has not developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He is however playing Nigerian-born Bennett Omalu in an upcoming film, Concussion. The Nigerian-born and trained forensic pathologist was the first to report an association between repeated head trauma and the neurodegenerative disease CTE. He relates his story in this interview.
It will be interesting to see the film portrays the great lengths the National Football League (NFL) went to discredit the hero but here is a trailer:
And talking of Nigerian doctors and the movies, Danny Glover will be playing a part in 93 days, a film about the action of a few dedicated doctors to stop the spread of the deadly ebola virus in Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country.
It is always headlines when a celebrity comes out with, or dies of, any disease. The disease often gets a boost, its profile raised high. We saw this with the ‘Jade Goody effect‘ which boosted cervical cancer screening. The same occurred with the ‘Angelina Jolie effect‘ which improved the provision of breast cancer services.
The celebrity effect also works in Neurology, although never as successfully as the examples above. Some single-minded neurology celebrities have tackled their diseases head-on, often by funding research. This is the case with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Parkinson’s disease (PD).
The celebrity may support a charity on account of a family member with a condition such as JK Rowling aiding the Multiple SclerosisSociety in Scotland on behalf of her mother who had the disease; unfortunately they eventually fell out.
Sometimes its a celebrity event that does the trick. The ice bucket challenge raised millions for MND. The celebrity endorsements for the campaign was a boost for those fighting to eliminate the disease. And one of the best clips is of Benedict Cumberbatch-worth a look!
On the theme of MND we see the example of a celebrity ‘endorsement’ of a different type. Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned theoretical physicist, has not been particularly bullish in his support of MND but his biopic, The Theory of Everything, has had an interesting effect;
What of naming nerve cells after celebrities? Yes indeed. Heard of the Jennifer Aniston neuron? Neuroscientists have discovered that individual nerve cells learn to recocgnise specific faces, and Jennifer’s was a face they used in their trials. A lot of good it has done for her, but a clever way for neuroscience to embed their lesson in our minds; a very good use of celebrity.
Which other celebrities with neurological diseases have raised the profile of their condition, or influenced it, in any way at all? The subject for a blog sequel!