Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome (AIWS, named after the novel written by Lewis Carroll), also known as Todd's syndrome or lilliputian hallucinations, is a disorienting neurological condition that affects human perception. Sufferers may experience micropsia, macropsia, or size distortion of other sensory modalities. A temporary condition, it is often associated with migraines, brain tumors, and the use of psychoactive drugs.
It can also present as the initial sign of the Epstein-Barr Virus (see mononucleosis). Anecdotal reports suggest that the symptoms of AIWS are fairly common in childhood, with many people growing out of them in their teens. It appears that AIWS is also a common experience at sleep onset. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome can be caused by abnormal amounts of electrical activity causing abnormal blood flow in the parts of the brain that process visual perception and texture.
Signs and symptomsEdit
For the AIWS sufferer, the optical system is entirely physically normal. The AIWS involves a change in perception as opposed to a malfunction of the eyes themselves. The hallmark sign of AIWS is a migraine, and AIWS may in part be caused by the migraine. AIWS affects the sufferer's sense of vision, sensation, touch, and hearing, as well as one's own body image.
A prominent and often disturbing symptom is that of altered body image: the sufferer may find that he or she is confused as to the size and shape of parts of (or all of) his/her body. Alice in Wonderland syndrome involves perceptual distortions of the size or shape of objects. Other possible causes and/or signs of association with the syndrome are migraines, use of hallucinogenic drugs, and infectious mononucleosis.
Also, patients with certain neurological diseases have experienced similar visual hallucinations. These hallucinations are called "Lilliputian," which means that objects appear either smaller or larger than they actually are.
Patients may experience either micropsia or macropsia. Micropsia is an abnormal visual condition, usually occurring in the context of visual hallucination, in which affected persons see objects as being smaller than those objects actually are. Macropsia is a condition where the individual sees everything larger than it actually is.
The relationship, if any, between the syndrome and mononucleosis remains unknown. One 17-year-old male described his odd symptoms. He said, "quite suddenly objects appear small and distant (teliopsia) or large and close (peliopsia). I feel as I am getting shorter and smaller "shrinking" and also the size of persons are not longer than my index finger (a lilliputian proportion). Sometimes I see the blind in the window or the television getting up and down, or my leg or arm is swinging. I may hear the voices of people quite loud and close or faint and far. Occasionally, I experience attacks of migrainous headache associated with eye redness, flashes of lights and a feeling of giddiness. I am always conscious to the intangible changes in myself and my environment."
The eyes themselves are normal, but the sufferer 'sees' objects with the wrong size or shape or finds that perspective is incorrect. This can mean that people, cars, buildings, etc., look smaller or larger than they should be, or that distances look incorrect; for example a corridor may appear to be very long, or the ground may appear too close.
The sufferer may also lose a sense of time, a problem similar to the lack of spatial perspective. That is, time seems to pass very slowly, akin to an LSD experience. The lack of time, and space, perspective leads to a distorted sense of velocity. For example, one could be inching along ever so slowly in reality, yet it would seem as if one were sprinting uncontrollably along a moving walkway, leading to severe, overwhelming disorientation. This can then cause the sufferer to feel as if movement, even within his or her own home, is futile.
In addition, some people may, in conjunction with a high fever, experience more intense and overt hallucinations, seeing things that are not there and misinterpreting events and situations.
Other minor or less common symptoms may include loss of limb control and general dis-coordination, memory loss, lingering touch and sound sensations, and emotional experiences.