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Hypergraphia is an overwhelming urge to write. It is not itself a disorder, but can be associated with temporal lobe changes in epilepsy and mania in the context of bipolar disorder. Neurologist Alice Weaver Flaherty, in her book The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain, describes its relationship to writer's block and to compulsive reading or hyperlexia.


[edit] Causes

Several different regions of the brain govern the act of writing. The physical motion of the hand is controlled by the cerebral cortex which comprises part of the outer layer of the brain. The drive to write, on the other hand, is controlled by the limbic system, a ring-shaped cluster of cells deeply buried in the cortex which governs emotion, affiliated instincts and inspiration and is said to regulate the human being's need for communication. Words and ideas are cognized and understood by the temporal lobes behind the ears, and these temporal lobes are connected to the limbic system. Ideas are organized and edited in the frontal lobe of the brain. Temporal lobe lesions cause temporal lobe epilepsy, however it is also known to run in families. Hypergraphia is not a frequent manifestation of temporal lobe epilepsy.

Currently, hypergraphia is understood to be triggered by changes in brainwave activity in the temporal lobe.

It is also associated with bipolar disorder. Manic and depressive episodes have been reported to intensify hypergraphia symptoms. Additionally schizophrenics and people with frontotemporal dementia can also experience a compulsive drive to write.

[edit] Famous cases

Hypergraphia was one of the central issues in the mysterious story of Virginia Ridley,[citation needed] a Georgia woman who also suffered from agoraphobia and epilepsy and remained secluded in her home for twenty-seven years. When her husband, Alvin Ridley, was accused of holding his wife in the home for almost three decades and killing her, her ten thousand-plus page hypergraphic journal was central at the 1999 trial and in the ultimate acquittal of Mr. Ridley. Her writings literally answered every question[citation needed] raised about the mysterious woman in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia, when prosecutors had assumed that she had been held against her will and murdered.

Both Vincent van Gogh and Fyodor Dostoevsky are reported to have been affected by Hypergraphia.[1] The fearsomely prolific American composer Alan Hovhaness may have been affected by hypergraphia.[dubious ][citation needed] He claimed to have thrown over 1,000 of his early compositions into the fireplace in the 1940s whilst still a young man, and even at the time of his death, in 2000, had penned at least 400 more, of which at least 300 are published.

Lewis Carroll, the author of "Alice in Wonderland" is said[by whom?] to have had hypergraphia.[citation needed]. In his lifetime he wrote over 98,000 letters varying in format. The letters were written backwards, in rebus, and in different patterns, such as the "Mouse Tail" in the former book. Some examples of his letters can be found here.[2]

The Reverend Robert Shields maintained a diary chronicling every 5 minutes of his life from 1972 until a stroke disabled him in 1997. The resulting work filled 94 boxes and contained approximately 37.5 million words.[improper synthesis?]

Former United States Senator Bob Graham has maintained a meticulous account of the daily events of his life. Between 1977 and 2003, Graham filled almost 4,000 notebooks,[3] recording such varied items as the movie he and his daughter rented on the eve of his grandchild's birth (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which, he noted, he rewound and returned), as well as details of strangers he'd met at airports so that he could follow up with a friendly letter. Each notebook, color-coded by season, covered two to three days. His daily entries included minutiae like his weight, clothes into which he changed, what he ate and where, as well as serious matters of state. When the company that manufactured Graham's notebooks ceased production, Graham bought up hundreds of the remaining stock. During the 2000 Presidential race, Vice President Al Gore considered Graham as a potential running mate, but campaign insiders worried Graham's habit of filling notebooks with daily minutia would be perceived by the public as eccentric.[4] Finally, late in the selection process, Gore decided against Graham.[5] Nevertheless, Graham maintained his notebooks were not diaries -- as they contained no introspective commentary -- but rather an efficient system for life management.[6] "I would rather have more detail than less," Graham told TIME Magazine in 2000. "I use [the notebooks] as a working tool. I review them for calls to be made, memos to be dictated, meetings I want to follow up on and things people promise to do. I would be reticent to be too open in describing personal feelings and emotions."[7] In the same article, an anonymous source close to Graham suspected the suicide of Graham's half-brother spurred Graham to seek control and discipline, one form of which being Graham's notebooks.[8]

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