April 1967

The "Jumpers" of Maine: A Reappraisal

Author Affiliations

Portland, Me

From Maine Medical Center, Portland.

Arch Intern Med. 1967;119(4):355-358. doi:10.1001/archinte.1967.00290220105005

This is a progress report on a curious reaction noted in Maine woodsmen 88 years ago. In 1878 Beard briefly described the disorder, as observed among men working in the Moosehead Lake region, featuring an excessive and dramatic startle response, or "jumping," to sudden stimuli.1 Except for a few references in foreign journals in the next decade and passing comments later by Osler2 and Kinnier Wilson,3 the "jumpers" escaped formal medical notice until an example, with review of the literature, was reported by Stevens in 1964.4 The present study concerns the details of a search then begun for other traces. A preliminary survey revealed that this colorful response has long been part of regional folklore and remains endemic in the state of Maine, at least.5 Its neurologic and psychologic aspects are intriguing. It can clearly be separated from other disorders in which exaggerated startling is simply an incidental symptom.

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