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Artwork During Recovery From Encephalitis

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticJanuary 6, 2013 9:37 PM


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I recently wrote aboutanti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a neurological disorder that often manifests with psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and hallucinations.

The latest American Journal of Psychiatry features a strange series of four drawings made by a 15 year old girl during an episode of the disease, which presented as psychotic symptoms but later progressed to severe insomnia and epilepsy before it was diagnosed and treated.


"As she gradually recovered we asked her to draw something. She did not know what to draw, so we suggested an animal, such as a dog, but she did not know how to start.

When we told her that a dog has four legs, a tail, two ears, two eyes, and a mouth, she drew an abstract figure that consisted of a head with four legs (A). Her next drawing, of a cat, looked exactly the same, apparently since they share the same basic features.

Two weeks later the dog now looked more recognizable but like a human, standing upright, with two arms and four legs...All body parts were listed beneath the figure in the same color as they were drawn (B).

Two months after the patient was transferred to a local rehabilitation center, the cat was catlike for the first time; it had four legs, was normally proportioned, and was correctly positioned. Colors were used adequately. However, this drawing still looked like one by a primary school child instead of a 15- year-old girl (C).

Finally, after 5 months of rehabilitation her drawing had a normal composition. She still had the urge to write down what she drew, she did not encircle the figures anymore (D)."


Esseveld MM, van de Riet EH, Cuypers L, and Schieveld JN (2013). Drawings During Neuropsychiatric Recovery From Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. The American journal of psychiatry, 170 (1), 21-2 PMID: 23288386

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