Acta Neurochirurgica

, Volume 152, Issue 4, pp 737–742 | Cite as

What makes Maurice Ravel’s deadly craniotomy interesting? Concerns of one of the most famous craniotomies in history

  • Ayhan KanatEmail author
  • Selim Kayaci
  • Ugur Yazar
  • Adem Yilmaz
Review Article


Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), the great impressionist-classicist composer of many popular compositions, such as the Boléro, suffered from a progressive disease and died following an exploratory craniotomy by Clovis Vincent. The history of his progressive dementia and the contribution of a car accident, following which he was unable to function, have received a certain amount of interest in the neurological literature previously, but his deadly craniotomy was not evaluated from a neurosurgery perspective. The car accident in 1932, with the probable consequence of a mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury, could be the key event in his life, triggering the loss of his ability to compose. It is clear that he never recovered from his injury and within a year he became completely unable to function. His dementia progressed dramatically. This event needs to be kept in mind. In 1937, Ravel died after the craniotomy performed by Vincent, but only a speculative, retrospective diagnosis is possible since an autopsy was not undertaken.


Maurice Ravel Craniotomy Clovis Vincent 



  1. 1.
    Alajouanine T (1948) Aphasia and artistic realization. Brain 71:229–241CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Amaducci ML, Grassi E, Boller F (2002) “Maurice Ravel and right-hemisphere musical creativity: influence of disease on his last musical works? Eur J Neurol 9(1):75–82CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boeck E (1996) Was Maurice Ravel’s illness a corticobasal degeneration? Clin Neurol Neurosurg 98:57–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Boeck E (2005) The terminal illness and last composition of Maurice Ravel. Front Neurol Neurosci 29:132–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Crutch SJ, Isaacs R, Rossor MN (2001) Some workmen can blame their tools: artistic change in an individual with Alzheimer’s disease. Lancet 357:2129–2133CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cumming JL, Zarit JM (1987) Probable Alzheimer’s disease in an artist. JAMA 258:2731–2734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cytowic RE (1976) Aphasia in Maurice Ravel. Bull Los Angeles Neurol Soc 41(3):109–114PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Henson RA (1988) Maurice Ravel’s illness: a tragedy of lost creativity. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 296(6636):1585–1588 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kerner D (1975) The death of Ravel. MMW Munch Med Wochenschr 117(14):591–596PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kertesz A, Martinez-Lage P, Davidson W, Munoz DG (2000) The corticobasal degeneration syndrome overlaps progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia. Neurology 55:1368–1875PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kimura D (1961) Left-right differences in the perception of melodies. Q J Exp Psychol 15:156–165Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mell JC, Howard SM, Miller BL (2003) Art and the brain: the influence of frontotemporal dementia on an accomplished artist. Neurology 60:1707–1710CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Miller BL, Cumming J, Mishkin F (1998) Emergence of artistic talent in frontotemporal dementia. Neurology 51:978–982PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Otte A, De Bondt P, Van De Wiele C, Audenaert K, Dierckx R (2003) The exceptional brain of Maurice Ravel. Med Sci Monit 9(6):RA134–RA139PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Otte A, Juengling FD, Kassubek J (2001) Exceptional brain function in musicians and the neural basis of music processing. Eur J Nucl Med 28:130–131CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Perry DW, Zatorre RJ, Petrides M, Alivisatos B, Meyer E, Evans AC (1999) Localization of cerebral activity during simple singing. NeuroReport 10:3979–3984PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Vanneste JA (2000) Diagnosis and management of normal-pressure hydrocephalus. J Neurol 247(1):5–14CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ayhan Kanat
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Selim Kayaci
    • 2
  • Ugur Yazar
    • 1
  • Adem Yilmaz
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryRize Medical SchoolRizeTurkey
  2. 2.Sar Hospital Department of NeurosurgeryRizeTurkey
  3. 3.Department of NeurosurgerySisli Research and Education HospitalIstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Tophane Mahallesi, Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Mavideniz internet kafeMerkez-RizeTurkey

Personalised recommendations