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Kuru or Koro

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1032540.  Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:24 am Reply with quote

Which would you rather have?


Kuru is a universally fatal neurodegenerative disorder. It has also been referred to as the laughing disease due to laughter being one of its many symptoms. In the 1960s Kuru killed around 10% of the Fore, a tribe in New Guinea, afflicting mostly women and children. The disease baffled many, and its cause proved elusive for several years. It was eventually established that the disease was related to cannibalistic practices. The women and children, but not the men, were involved in burial rituals and ate parts of the flesh and brain tissue. The epidemic stopped once cannibalistic practices were halted, although there are still a handful of cases every year as a result of the 1960s epidemic.


Koro is a culture-bound syndrome characterized by a belief that one’s sexual organs are shrinking and retracting inwards. Sufferers believe that their sexual organs will eventually disappear and result in their death. The word koro means ‘head of a turtle’, which requires little imagination to understand the choice of name. Though this syndrome has been often associated with Southeast Asia, cases of Koro have been reported across the world. It is, however, unclear whether those instances reported across the world are of people with cultural affiliations to Southeast Asia. The syndrome has been reported in both men and women although cases of women are much less frequent than those of men. Nobody has ever died directly of koro, although attempts at mitigation have left numerous people with injured penises and nipples.

References (Koro)

Franzini, L. R., & Grossberg, J. M. (1995). Exccentric and bizarre behaviours.

Roy, D., Hazarika, S., Bhattacharya, A., Das, S., Nath, K., & Saddichha, S. (2011). Koro: culture bound or mass hysteria? Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry, 45(8), 683.

Tseng, W., Kan-Ming, M., Hsu, J., Li-Shuen, L., Li-Wah, O., Guo-Qian, C. & Da-Wei, J. (1988). A sociocultural study of koro epidemics in Guangdong, China. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 145(12), 1538-43.

References (Kuru)

Goodfield, J. (1997). Cannibalism and kuru. Nature, 387(6636), 841.

Lindenbaum, S. (2001). Kuru, prions, and human affairs. Annual Review of Anthropology, 2001, Vol.30, 363 – 385.

Pennisi, E. (April, 11, 2003). Science magazine, Vol. 300, 227 - 228.

Provine, R. R. (2000). Laughter: A scientific investigation. London: Penguin Books.


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