Narcolepsy historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Muhammad Waleed Haider, M.D.[2]


Narcolepsy is a long term neurological sleep disorder, which was first reported in Germany by Westphal and Fisher (1877-1878). French physician Jean-Baptiste-Édouard Gélineau (1880) first named this disorder as narcolepsy and identified it as a specfic clinical entity, while Loëwenfeld (1902) and Kinnier Wilson (1928) subsequently named the terms, cataplexy and sleep paralysis, respectively. Hypocretins (orexins) were first identified by DeLecea and Sakurai in 1990s but association between Hypocretin deficiency and human narcolepsy was established by Nishino and Ripley later in 2000.

Historical Perspective


Landmark Events in the Development of Treatment Strategies

Famous Cases

The following are a few famous cases of narcolepsy:

  • Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is one of the most famous sufferers from narcolepsy
  • Thomas Alva Edison, the greatest American inventor, was thought to suffer from narcolepsy because he was photographed sleeping in his lab
  • Jimmy Kimmel, American late-night talk show host, actor, producer, comedian, and writer[45]
  • Harold M. Ickes, former deputy White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and a leading figure in the His administration's healthcare reform initiative[46]
  • Harriet Tubman, an underground railroad pioneer, an American abolitionist, and political activist suffered from head inury and later developed narcolepsy and epilepsy
  • Arthur Lowe, a British actor who played iconic Captain Mainwaring in the British sitcom Dad's Army[47]
  • Nastassja Aglaia Kinski, German actress, and former model[48]
  • Lenny Bruce, controversial American stand-up comedian and satirist, suffered from narcolepsy and took medication to treat his condition
  • George M. Church, molecular geneticist, molecular engineer, and chemist, who is a Professor of Genetics and Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard[49]
  • Teresa Nielsen Hayden, American science fiction editor, fanzine writer, and essayist who has a famous weblog, named Making Light[50]
  • Franck Bouyer, French former road racing cyclist who was unable to compete or train without treatment with Modafinil
  • Gabe Barham, former Drummer for American post-hardcore band Sleeping With Sirens
  • Kurt Cobain, former front-man for American rock band Nirvana, claimed in interviews that he suffered from narcolepsy
  • Jinkx Monsoon (real name is Jerick Hoffer), Seattle Drag Queen, stage performer, comedian and singer who is the winner of the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race
  • Aaron Flahavan, former English (Portsmouth) football Goalkeeper
  • Paul Gonsalves, Jazz tenor saxophonist[51]

Milestones in Narcolepsy

Year Discovery
  • Gelineau named the disorder “narcolepsy”
  • Loewenfeld first coined the term “cataplexy
  • Multiple Latency Test description
  • First-ever report of narcolepsy in a canine


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  3. Schenck CH, Bassetti CL, Arnulf I, Mignot E (2007). "English translations of the first clinical reports on narcolepsy and cataplexy by Westphal and Gélineau in the late 19th century, with commentary". J Clin Sleep Med. 3 (3): 301–11. PMC 2564780. PMID 17561602.
  4. Janković S, Susić V, Sokić D, Lević Z (1996). "[Dr. John Baptiste Edouard Gélineau]". Srp Arh Celok Lek. 124 (11–12): 331–5. PMID 9132972.
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  22. Knecht CD, Oliver JE, Redding R, Selcer R, Johnson G (1973). "Narcolepsy in a dog and a cat". J Am Vet Med Assoc. 162 (12): 1052–3. PMID 4736237.
  23. Mitler MM, Boysen BG, Campbell L, Dement WC (1974). "Narcolepsy-cataplexy in a female dog". Exp Neurol. 45 (2): 332–40. doi:10.1016/0014-4886(74)90122-8. PMC 2391078. PMID 4472992.
  24. Honda Y, Asake A, Tanaka Y, Juji T. Discrimination of narcolepsy by using genetic markers and HLA. Sleep Res.,1 2: 254, 1983.
  25. Honda Y. Introduction to " HLA in Narcolepsy". 1-10. In: Honda Y, Juji T (Eds.). HLA in Narcolepsy. 1988.
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  27. Matsuki, K.; Honda, Y.; Satake, M.; Juji, T. (1988). "HLA in Narcolepsy in Japan": 58–75. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-83387-8_4.
  28. Mueller-Eckhardt, Gertrud; Meier-Ewert, K.; Schendel, Dolores J.; Reinecker, F. B.; Multhoff, Gabriele; Mueller-Eckhardt, C. (2008). "HLA and narcolepsy in a German population". Tissue Antigens. 28 (3): 163–169. doi:10.1111/j.1399-0039.1986.tb00476.x. ISSN 0001-2815.
  29. Langdon, Nicola; Dam, MiekeVan; Welsh, KenI.; Vaughan, RobertW.; Parkes, David (1984). "GENETIC MARKERS IN NARCOLEPSY". The Lancet. 324 (8413): 1178–1180. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(84)92742-9. ISSN 0140-6736.
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  32. Matsuki, Kazumasa; Grumet, F.Carl; Lin, Xiaoyan; Gelb, Michael; Guilleminault, Christian; Dement, WilliamC.; Mignot, Emmanuel (1992). "DQ (rather than DR) gene marks susceptibility to narcolepsy". The Lancet. 339 (8800): 1052. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(92)90571-J. ISSN 0140-6736.
  33. Mignot, E.; Kimura, A.; Lattermann, A.; Lin, X.; Yasunaga, S.; Mueller-Eckhardt, G.; Rattazzi, C.; Lin, L.; Guilleminault, C.; Grumet, F. C.; Mayer, G.; Dement, W. C.; Underhill, P. (1997). "Extensive HLA class II studies in 58 non-DRB1*15 (DR2) narcoleptic patients with cataplexy". Tissue Antigens. 49 (4): 329–341. doi:10.1111/j.1399-0039.1997.tb02761.x. ISSN 0001-2815.
  34. Mignot, E.; Lin, X.; Arrigoni, J.; Macaubas, C.; Olive, F.; Hallmayer, J.; Underhill, P.; Guilleminault, C.; Dement, W. C.; Grumet, F. C. (1994). "DQB1*0602 and DQA1*0102 (DQ1) Are Better Markers Than DR2 for Narcolepsy in Caucasian and Black Americans". Sleep. 17 (suppl_8): S60–S67. doi:10.1093/sleep/17.suppl_8.S60. ISSN 1550-9109.
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  36. Carlander, B; Eliaou, JF; Billiard, M (1993). "Autoimmune hypothesis in narcolepsy". Neurophysiologie Clinique/Clinical Neurophysiology. 23 (1): 15–22. doi:10.1016/S0987-7053(05)80279-5. ISSN 0987-7053.
  37. Mignot, Emmanuel; Tafti, Mehdi; Dement, William C.; Grumet, F.Carl (1995). "Narcolepsy and immunity". Advances in Neuroimmunology. 5 (1): 23–37. doi:10.1016/0960-5428(94)00043-N. ISSN 0960-5428.
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  41. Nishino S, Ripley B, Overeem S, Lammers GJ, Mignot E (2000). "Hypocretin (orexin) deficiency in human narcolepsy". Lancet. 355 (9197): 39–40. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(99)05582-8. PMID 10615891.
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  43. AKIMOTO H, HONDA Y, TAKAHASHI Y (1960). "Pharmacotherapy in narcolepsy". Dis Nerv Syst. 21: 704–6. PMID 13681922.
  44. Yoss, R. E.; Daly, D. (1959). "Treatment of narcolepsy with Ritalin". Neurology. 9 (3): 171–171. doi:10.1212/WNL.9.3.171. ISSN 0028-3878.
  45. "What It Feels Like: Changing Your Sex, Having Narcolepsy & Being Attacked by an Alligator".
  46. "The mob and the deputy chief of staff - Harold Ickes, Jr Washington Monthly - Find Articles".
  47. "BBC Two - Reputations, Arthur Lowe".
  48. "Articles".
  49. "Going To Church".
  50. "Making Light: Narcolepsy update".
  51. "[Dixielandjazz] Gonsalves sleeping on the bandstand".

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