Brain tumor causes uncontrollable laughter

They say laughter is the best medicine. But what if laughter is the disease?

For a 6-year-old girl in Bolivia who suffered from uncontrollable and inappropriate bouts of giggles, laughter was a symptom of a serious brain problem. But doctors initially diagnosed the child with “misbehavior.”

“She was considered spoiled, crazy — even devil-possessed,” Dr. José Liders Burgos Zuleta, ofAdvanced Medical Image Centre, in Bolivia, said in a statement.

But Burgos Zuleta discovered that the true cause of the girl’s laughing seizures, medically called gelastic seizures, was a brain tumor.

After the girl underwent a brain scan, the doctors discovered a hamartoma, a small, benign tumor that was pressing against her brain’s temporal lobe.The doctors surgically removed the tumor, and the girl is now healthy, the doctors said.

The girl stopped having the uncontrollable attacks of laughter and now only laughs normally, the doctors said.

Gelastic seizures are a form of epilepsy that is relatively rare, said Dr. Solomon Moshé, a pediatric neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The word comes from the Greek word for laughter, “gelos.”

“It’s not necessarily ‘hahaha’ laughing,” Moshé told Live Science. “There’s no happiness in this. Some of the kids may be very scared,” he added.

The seizures are most often caused by tumors in the hypothalamus, especially in kids, although they can also come from tumors in other parts of brain, Moshé said. Although laughter is the main symptom, patients may also have outbursts of crying.

These tumors can cause growth abnormalities if they affect the pituitary gland, he said.

The surgery to remove such brain tumors used to be difficult and dangerous, but a new surgical technique developed within the last 10 years allows doctors to remove them effectively without great risk, Moshé said.

The doctors who treated the girl said their report of her case could raise awareness of the strange condition, so doctors in Latin America can diagnose the true cause of some children’s “behavioral” problems, and refer them to a neurologist.

The case report was published June 16 in the journal ecancermedicalscience.

Thanks to Michael Moore for sharing this with the It’s Interesting community.

At 123, Bolivian Carmelo Flores Laura may be the oldest human who ever lived

Carmelo Flores Laura

Carmelo Flores Laura, a Bolivian cattle and sheep herder, was born in 1890 — 123 years ago — according to Bolivian public records. That’s a year before the invention of the rotary-dial telephone and two years before the first Ferris wheel spun at the Chicago World’s Fair.

If the records are accurate, Flores is the oldest living person ever documented.

Associated Press reporters recently visited Flores at his straw-roofed hut near Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca. Although he has no teeth and is nearly deaf, Flores walks without a cane and speaks in a firm voice, the news agency reported.

“I see a bit dimly,” Flores told the AP. “I had good vision before. But I saw you coming.”

A Bolivian official presented as evidence of Flores’ age a registry listing his birthdate as July 16, 1890. He said Flores’ birth predates the existence of birth certificates in Bolivia by 50 years.

A Guinness World Records spokeswoman told the AP that she knew of no claim being filed for Flores. But if his age is correct, the Bolivian has bested by one year Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at the verified age of 122.

Flores chalks up his long life to a lot of walking.

“I go out with the animals,” said the longtime sheep and cattle herder.

He eats barley, instead of rice or noodles, and drinks water that originates on Illampu, the fourth-highest mountain in Bolivia.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in an obituary after Calment’s death, the French woman credited her longevity to an occasional glass of port wine and eating plenty of olive oil.

Calment smoked until 1995, when she became too blind to light her own cigarettes and disliked asking anyone else to do it for her.

On her 121st birthday, in 1996, she released a CD, “Time’s Mistress,” which showcased her reminiscences over a background of rap and other music.

As for Flores, he says he very much misses his wife, who died more than a decade ago. One of his children is still living, 67-year-old Cecilio. Most of his 40 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren have moved away from his small Bolivian hamlet.,0,4445976.story

Dancing zebras direct traffic in Bolivia

traffic zebra
In La Paz, Boliva, at-risk youth get $57 a month – plus health insurance – for part-time gigs wearing zebra costumes and directing the city’s chaotic traffic.

The streets of the world’s highest capital are a cacophony of sound with the groans and squeals of horns and brakes. There appear to be no rules of the road, as cutting off other drivers, stopping suddenly, and running red lights are a regular part of the traffic flow. The fast-moving chaos creates a dicey experience for pedestrians wanting to cross busy intersections. Enter the dancing zebras.

La Paz’s traffic zebras are a corps of about 100 youths who, dressed in individual, full-body zebra outfits, help schoolchildren and elderly or disabled pedestrians cross the street. They’re also trained in crowd dynamics and street performance.

The program started in 2001, with 20 zebras, sporting “very ugly” two-person costumes, says Patricia Grossman, director of city culture. But La Paz residents took to the zebras, and their friendly guidance stuck, easing bottlenecks and aggression more effectively than “sanctions, tickets, or coercion,” says Ms. Grossman.

The zebras are part of a broader program for 3,000 high-risk youths, which gives 15-to-22-year-olds city improvement jobs. The zebras work four hours daily, Monday through Friday. They make 400 bolivianos monthly (about US$57) and get health insurance, a good gig for youth considering the country’s monthly minimum wage for full-time work is near 650 bolivianos (about $93).

“It’s fun. You can run and jump, there’s movement,” said Claudia Bustamente, a traffic zebra. She hopes to stick with the job at least a year.

Since 2007, the zebras have also participated in fairs, festivals, and events, and lecture at schools against drunken driving. Sometimes they irk local police, as officers feel that the zebras aren’t true law enforcers, says coordinator Kathia Salazar. But surveys indicate that the zebras’ method of enforcing laws and spreading public-service messages is well received and well respected.