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December 1969

Sydenham's Chorea Associated With Transient Intellectual Impairment: A Case Study and Review of the Literature

Author Affiliations

From the departments of psychiatry (Dr. Gatti) and psychology (Dr. Rosenheim), Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston. Dr. Gatti is now at the Newport Naval Hospital, Newport, RI.

Am J Dis Child. 1969;118(6):915-918. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1969.02100040917019

PERSONALITY changes are commonly associated with Sydenham's chorea. Before the latter part of the 19th century, emotional causes were commonly held to bring on this condition. Even today it is not certain that all cases of Sydenham's chorea can be attributed solely to rheumatic disease. Chapman et al1 in 1958 reported on eight cases of chorea in which in at least five cases, definite and severe emotional distress was present just prior to the onset of choreiform symptoms. They also reported that a typical personality seemed to emerge from the children they studied. The opposite idea has also obtained some support; that is, that organic brain changes stemming from rheumatic fever and Sydenham's chorea may have some relationship to later severe psychiatric disturbances including schizophrenia.2-5 In general, however, organic brain impairment affecting intellectual function and cognition is not included as part of the typical picture of Sydenham's chorea.