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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 mimic movements of those similar to the behavior that a child would during certain developmental stages.[citation needed]

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

In popular culture[edit]

William S. Burroughs mentions several times Latah in his 1959 novel Naked Lunch, "a parody of modern mass man under modern conditioning programmes of advertising and public 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 Rootness

Further reading[edit]