Dilbert Cartoonist recovers from rare disease

By | October 28, 2006

Dilbert Cartoonist recovers from rare disease

For a while there, Scott Adams could only speak in rhyme. Or while pinching his nose. The man behind the “Dilbert” cartoon strip says he suffers from Spasmodic Dysphonia, an ailment in which the parts of the brain controlling speech don’t work properly. Those with the disorder can speak in unique circumstances — while reading poetry, in exaggerated falsetto or right after sneezing — but can’t talk in their normal voices. Adams developed the disease in 2005. Treatments involved injecting Botox into muscles around the larynx in order to quell spasms. Adams, who hated the injections, began reciting nursery rhymes in order to “re-map” his brain. He can talk now, but his voice is a bit raspy, as if he’s getting over the flu. – kpl

Adams, 49, appears to be a rare example of someone who has largely – but not totally – recovered from Spasmodic Dysphonia, a mysterious disease in which parts of the brain controlling speech shut down or go haywire. As many as 30,000 Americans are afflicted, typically in their 40s and 50s, experts say.

Adams, the former Pacific Bell financial analyst whose doodles mocking middle management became one of the country’s most popular comic strips, hated the injections. His only comfort was that he could sing and recite poetry with only minimal gasping and stammering. He decided to recite nursery rhymes every night in hopes of “re-mapping” his brain.

Last weekend, Adams was chanting “Jack Be Nimble” for the umpteenth time when it dawned on him: He wasn’t having a stitch of difficulty. He’s been talking ever since – albeit with a raspy, tinny voice that sounds as if he’s still recovering from the flu. – ap

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