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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]

It is called melatah in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia and many people, regardless of age or gender have this condition. Even though it is not dangerous, it may cause harm to the person and the people around them due to their random movements and shoutings.

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) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Winzeler" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  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[ed]ness

Further reading[edit]