NEWS OF THE WEIRD

Don't Give Them the Shakes

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A NOTW classic (February 2009): Among the medical oddities mentioned in a December (2008) Wall Street Journal roundup was "Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder," in which a person, when startled, would "jump, twitch, flail their limbs, and obey commands given suddenly, even if it means hurting themselves or a loved one." It was first observed in 1878 among lumberjacks in Maine, but it's also been reported among factory workers in Malaysia and Siberia. It's believed to result from a genetic mutation that blocks the calming of the central nervous system (but could be merely psychological, from the stress of working in close quarters).

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