A person you know has just had a stroke. This, naturally, is terrible news. Apart from the initial damage, the effects can linger for years. But sometimes, the effects that linger are weird but fantastic.
Top image: Cheddar on Flickr.
Gourmand syndrome is both a brain injury and an eating disorder, which sounds bad until you realize that even the people describing it as such consider it "benign." The disorder is caused by lesions in a certain part of the brain. The lesions are always in the right hemisphere of the brain and cluster around the limbic system and the basal ganglia - the gooey center of the brain which deals with emotion and motivation. The lesions could be brought on by a stroke, as they were for a journalist, or by an injury to the head, as they were for a snowboarder. Either way, after the lesions appear, something strange starts to happen.
Sometimes the strangeness is confined to specific behaviors and occasional outbursts. The snowboarder suddenly felt deep cravings for really good pesto, despite not finding pesto especially enthralling before. Sometimes the strangeness changes the injured person's entire life. The journalist, who had been interested in politics, quit his job and became a food writer.
What was consistent was the fact that the strange behavior centered around food. Sufferers thought about food, discussed it, wrote about it, and of course ate it. Usually, the food had to be high quality. People were interested in fine dining, not in cramming down whatever food they could get their hands on. This is why the behavior, when it was finally named in a paper in 1997, acquired the name "Gourmand Syndrome," not "Glutton Syndrome."
The paper describes about thirty-four patients who became preoccupied with really good food and found they had lesions in a specific part of their brain. The syndrome doesn't appear to be curable, but then few people are that interested in a cure. They're more interested in eating something that's been properly cured. (Sorry. It had to be said.)