St. Catherine of Siena (1347–1380 AD): one of the earliest historic cases of altered gustatory perception in anorexia mirabilis

Abstract

St. Catherine of Siena suffered from an extreme form of holy fasting, a condition classified as anorexia mirabilis (also known as inedia prodigiosa). Historical and medical scholarships alike have drawn a comparison between this primaeval type of anorexia with a relatively common form of eating disorder among young women in the modern world, anorexia nervosa. St. Catherine’s condition was characterised by a disgust for sweet taste, a condition also described in anorexia nervosa, and characterised by specific neurophysiological changes in the brain. St. Catherine’s case may be considered one of the oldest veritable descriptions of altered gustation (dysgeusia). Moreover, a more compelling neurophysiological similarity between anorexia mirabilis and anorexia nervosa may be proposed.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the Mäxi Foundation (Switzerland) for supporting this research.

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Correspondence to Nicole Bender.

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Galassi, F.M., Bender, N., Habicht, M.E. et al. St. Catherine of Siena (1347–1380 AD): one of the earliest historic cases of altered gustatory perception in anorexia mirabilis. Neurol Sci 39, 939–940 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10072-018-3285-6

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Keywords

  • History of neurology
  • Palaeopathology
  • Anorexia
  • Dysgeusia
  • St. Catherine of Siena