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Latah, from Southeast Asia, is a condition in which abnormal behaviors result from a person experiencing shock. When surprised, the affected person typically engages in such behaviors as screaming, cursing, dancing type movements, and uncontrollable laughter.[1]

Latah is considered a culture-specific startle disorder[2][3] that was historically regarded as personal difference rather than an illness.[1][3]

Persons with Latah make movements reminiscent of behaviors normally peculiar to certain childhood developmental stages.[citation needed]

Similar conditions have been recorded within other cultures and locations. For example, there are the so-called Jumping Frenchmen of Maine, the women of the Ainu people of Japan (imu),[clarification needed] the Siberian (miryachit), and the Filipino[clarification needed] and Thai[clarification needed] peoples; however, the connection among these syndromes[clarification needed] is controversial.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

William S. Burroughs mentions Latah several times in his 1959 novel Naked Lunch, "a parody of modern mass man under modern conditioning programmes of advertising and public[ly] induced morality", according to Eric Mottram.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Winzeler R (April 1984). "The Study of Malayan Latah". Indonesia 37: 77–104. doi:10.2307/3350936. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Dreissen YE, Tijssen MA (December 2012). "The startle syndromes: physiology and treatment". Epilepsia. 53 Suppl 7: 3–11. doi:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03709.x. PMID 23153204. 
  3. ^ a b Gimlette JD (August 1897). "Remarks on the Etiology, Symptoms, and Treatment of Latah, with a Report of Two Cases". Br Med J 2 (1912): 455–7. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.1912.455-a. PMC 2407745. PMID 20757229. 
  4. ^ Parkingson A.D., Giving Away the Basic American Root[edness]

Further reading[edit]