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Friday, October 27, 2006

Straight from Dilbert's mouth 

That's a joke. Or it isn't:

[Scott] Adams, 49, appears to be a rare example of someone who has largely — but not totally — recovered from Spasmodic Dysphonia, a mysterious disease in which parts of the brain controlling speech shut down or go haywire....

One of the most peculiar aspects of SD is that victims are typically unable to have intimate conversations in their normal voice. Yet they can speak under different circumstances, such as immediately after sneezing or laughing, or in an exaggerated falsetto or baritone, or while reciting poetry....

Patients are often so anxious about their speech that they stop breathing or have heart palpitations before trying to articulate their thoughts. There is no known cure — but many victims have improved their speech by changing tenor or pitch, or doing special breathing and relaxation exercises....

SD may be caused by a chromosomal abnormality that results in spasms of the vocal chords. It may cause spasms in the eyes, arms, legs and mouth. Many victims suffer multiple dystonias, or movement disorders.

Nearly three years ago, Adams developed a tremor in his right pinky whenever he tried to put pen to paper. He turned to a digital drawing tablet and stylus, and the spasms disappeared. Dilbert has been computer-generated ever since.

Then, Adams lost his voice in early 2005 following a bout with bronchitis and laryngitis. He withdrew; the thought of going to the grocery store without saying "hi" or "thank you" was depressing. Being unable to scream "fire!" or "watch out!" terrified him.

A specialist finally diagnosed Adams with SD and he began treatments of the tissue-paralyzing drug botulinum toxin [Botox]....

Adams...hated the injections.

His only comfort was that he could sing and recite poetry with only minimal gasping and stammering. He decided to recite nursery rhymes every night in hopes of "re-mapping" his brain.

Last weekend, Adams was chanting "Jack Be Nimble" for the umpteenth time when it dawned on him: He wasn't having a stitch of difficulty.

He's been talking ever since — albeit with a raspy, tinny voice that sounds as if he's still recovering from the flu.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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