Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Aphasianniversary: Peter Rommel (1643-1708)

2008 marks the 300th anniversary of the death of Peter Rommel (1643-1708). Who's Peter Rommel? He was a German physician who, along with Johann Schmidt (1624-1690) provided the first detailed descriptions of aphasic disorders (although the term aphasia wouldn't be coined for another couple hundred years).

In 1683, Rommel described a patient with severe motor aphasia, but with preserved comprehension, preserved ability to recite some prayers and Bible verses, and with preserved memory for past events. Rommel writes,

"After a fairly strenuous walk which she took after dinner, she suffered a mild delirium and apoplexy with paralysis of the right side. She lost all speech with the exception of the words "yes" and "and." She could say no other word, not even a syllable, with these exceptions; the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, some Biblical verses and other prayers, which she could recite verbatim and without hesitation but somewhat precipitously.... Nevertheless, her memory was excellent. She grasped and understood everthing that she saw and heard and she answered questions, even about events in the remote past, by affirmative or negative nods of the head." (from a translation by Benton and Joynt, 1960, Archives of Neurology, 3: 205-221, p. 210).

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