Book 8: ‘Harry Potter and the Bottle of Aspirin’

We recently reported that children ages 5 to 7 have trouble separating facts from reality when reading fictional stories. After perusing some recent research journals, we’re struck that certain scientists may have the same problem. Two of them, writing in the June issue of the journal Headache, have just diagnosed Harry Potter as a migraine sufferer.

And they go further than that. Citing the statistic that 3.6% to 12% of children ages 7 to 15 suffer from migraine headaches, they speculate that unknown numbers of these are secretly nonhuman wizards.

In an essay under the table-of-contents heading “Creative Space,” Dr. Fred Sheftell, founder of the New England Center for Headache in Stamford, Conn., and Timothy Steiner, emeritus professor of neuroscience and mental health at Imperial College London, refer to the “International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition” to make their diagnosis.


They note that Potter’s nine headache episodes thus far have all been slightly different. Some happened on one side of the head, others have been “holocranial,” moving from place to place. Some happened suddenly and lasted for a minute; others built slowly and were longer lived. The authors address each episode in detail, citing “classical trigeminal neuralgia,” “severe head injury post-trauma” and “subarachnoid hemorrhage” as possible headache causes.

Listing stabbing headaches, thunderclap headaches, cluster headaches and tension-type headaches as all partially described in the books, the authors ultimately focus on migraines because Harry vomits during his episodes.

Potter’s headaches never last as long as the one to 72 hours required to fit the technical description of migraines, but the authors say wizards might have magical coping mechanisms that allow them to recover more quickly. Makes perfect sense to us.

What? You want more fiction-based neurology?

Mild cases of autism in Jane Austen characters:

Alice in Wonderland syndrome:

Wikipedia directory of fictional characters with mental illness:

— Chelsea Martinez