Coining the Pablo Picasso Syndrome

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Conference Proceeding

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Objective: To illustrate rare visual disturbances that have features of Picasso’s paintings in patients suffering from chronic migraine.

Background: The Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) has been well-described in the literature. Along with sensory disturbances, patients notably experience metamorphopsias, or distortions in size (micropsia/macropsia) and distance (teleopsia), particularly of body parts. Some migraineurs, however, report dislocation and disorientation of body parts, which are common features found in paintings of Pablo Picasso.

Design/Methods: A 60-year-old female with a 20-year history of chronic migraine presented for evaluation of frequent headaches and visual disturbances. In between her attacks of migraine, she would occasionally notice alterations which she describes as a “Picasso” painting. When looking at people, she would note their ear on top of their head, or their right arm would be short and attached to the face. This would occur 1–2 times per week, and would last 5 to 10 minutes. Inanimate objects, however, would not appear distorted. Her symptoms eventually improved with treatment with topiramate.

Results: The available literature, including published works and biographies, suggests Picasso did not suffer from migraine. Nonetheless, careful descriptions taken from migraineurs with visual disturbances may uncover features that resemble his paintings, be it dislocation of limbs with hints of cubism, as reported above, or illusory splitting as has been previously reported.

Conclusions: Dislocation or disorientation of body parts as a migraine-related visual phenomenon is rare and only sparsely reported in the medical literature. Coining of a “Pablo Picasso Syndrome” may better describe this occurrence.





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