The following list includes the principal published works in the medical and psychological literature which have considered aspects of Ravel's medical history. It complements the page of commentary on Ravel's health. General works can be found in the main bibliography.
ALAJOUANINE, Théophile. Aphasia and artistic realization.
Brain, v.71 (1948) pp.229-241.
Abstract: "The question is what happens to productive literary, musical, or pictorial activity after the onset of aphasia. Three cases are considered: the poet Charles Baudelaire; the musician Maurice Ravel; an unnamed artist of the French contemporary school. Aphasia destroyed literary language in the writer, it stopped sound expression in the musician, but leaves untouched plastic or figurated realization."
KERNER, D. Ravels Tod. Zu seinem 100. Geburtstag am 7. Marz 1975. [The death of Ravel].
MMW Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 117(14) (1975, Apr 4) pp.591-6.
Abstract: "The composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was chronically ill during the last five years of his life. He was suffering from Pick's astrophy, the first signs of which appeared in 1923 and 1927 and which were probably already reflected in the stereotypy of the "Bolero" of 1928. Transient apractic symptoms were prominent, later, difficulty in finding words, agraphia and alexia. Ravel left no completed composition after an accident to the head in 1932. Complete apathy and involutional phenomena characterize the period before the death of the master, who passed away a few days after a surgical operation on the brain."
CYTOWIC, R. E. Aphasia in Maurice Ravel.
Bulletin of the Los Angeles Neurological Society, v.41(3) (1976, Jul) pp.109-14.
Abstract: "A selective loss of language resulting from left hemisphere cerebral lesions is familiar to all neurologists but only rarely does such a deficit allow preexisting extraordinary capabilities of the right hemisphere to emerge. A retrospective case history of French composer Maurice Ravel demonstrates such a right-sided cognitive system. At 58, Ravel was struck with aphasia, which quelled any further artistic output. Most strikingly, he was able to think musically but unable to express his ideas in either writing or performance. Hemispheric lateralization for verbal (linguistic) and musical thinking offers an explanation for the dissociation of Ravel's ability to conceive and to create. What makes Ravel's history interesting to the public as well as to physicians is not only the tragic toll exacted in this composer's personal and creative life but also the resultant loss of the output of one of the 20th century's towering musical geniuses."
DALESSIO, D. J. Maurice Ravel and Alzheimer's disease.
Journal of the American Medical Association, v.252(24) (1984, Dec 28) pp.3412-3.
Maurice Ravel and Alzheimer's disease. [Letter.]
Journal of the American Medical Association, v.253(20) (1985, May 24-31) pp.2961-2.
TEPLY, I. Maurice Ravel a Pickova choroba. [Maurice Ravel and Pick's disease]
Ceskoslovenska neurologie a neurochirurgie, 50(6) (1987, Nov.) pp.412-5.
HENSON, R. Maurice Ravel's illness: a tragedy of lost creativity.
British Medical Journal (Clin Res Ed), v.296(6636) (1988, Jun 4) pp.1585-8.
Abstract: "Maurice Ravel had been subject to psychiatric disorder for many years when signs of organic brain disease appeared at the age of 52. Aphasia, apraxia, agraphia, and alexia became established some five years later. Musical creativity was lost. Alajouanine diagnosed cerebral atrophy with bilateral ventricular enlargement. Though Ravel's condition deteriorated progressively, generalised dementia was not apparent. He died in December 1937, after a craniotomy performed by Clovis Vincent, possibly from a subdural haematoma. Vincent's operative findings are described here. The likely cause of Ravel's illness was a restricted form of cerebral degeneration."
MAHIEUX, F.; LAURENT, A. Les dernieres annees de Maurice Ravel: hypothese diagnostique.
Encyclopédie Médico-Chirurgicale; (pp.23-24). Paris, 1988.
ACHACHE, P. Le cas Maurice Ravel: un syndrome aphaso-apraxique progressif.
MD Thesis. Université Claude-Bernard, Lyon, 1990.
MERCIER, B. Biographie médicale de Maurice Ravel.
MD Thesis. Medical Faculty of Bobigny, University of Paris, Paris, 1991.
SERGENT, Justine. Music, the brain and Ravel.
Trends in Neurosciences, v.16(5) (1993, May) pp.168-172
Abstract: "Clarifying the relationships between music and the brain is a legitimate goal of neuroscientific research. One approach toward this goal is based on new developments of brain imaging techniques. Recent investigations indicate that the realization of musical abilities such as sight-reading and piano performance relies on a distributed neural network comprising locally specialized cortical areas. Another approach is concerned with the study of musicians, like Maurice Ravel, who was brain damaged. An analysis of their deficits uncovers some properties of music-brain relationships, to identify the essential questions raised by these deficits, and to clarify the neurofunctional anatomy of musical abilities. Recent progress in cognitive and neurofunctional research opens the way to more systematic studies than had so far been possible."
SERGENT, Justine. De la musique au cerveau par l'intermediaire de Maurice Ravel.
Medecine/Sciences, Vol.9 (1993) pp.50-58 .
BAECK, Erik. Was Maurice Ravel's illness a corticobasal degeneration?
Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, v.98(1) (1996, Feb) pp.57-61
Abstract: "Reviews the final few years of the French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), who was struck down at the peak of his career by an aphasia and apraxia that destroyed his artistic realization but preserved his musical sensibility and judgment. He died after craniotomy. Multiple hypotheses have been formulated to explain the exact nature of his illness, which was probably corticobasal degeneration. However, in the absence of a postmortem examination, the diagnosis must remain speculative, despite the accurate descriptions of the symptoms in numerous biographies, neuropsychological notes, and operative findings of his surgeon. The relation between music and the brain is discussed."
BAECK, Erik. La mort de Maurice Ravel.
Revue Belge de Musicologie, v.51 (1997) pp.187-193.
Abstract: Discusses the circumstances surrounding the death of Maurice Ravel in December 1937. Traces the events related to Ravel's diagnoses, the composer's attitude towards proposed surgery, the date of the surgery, and the length of the recovery period. Explains why the results of the autopsy still remain a subject of speculation.
CYBULSKA, E. Bolero unravelled. A case of musical perseveration.
Psychiatric Bulletin, v.21 (1997) pp.576-577
BAECK, Erik. La maladie neurologique de Maurice Ravel.
Histoire des Sciences Médicales, v.32 (1998) pp.123-128.
ALONSO, R.J.; PASCUZZI, R. M. Ravel's neurological illness.
Seminars in Neurology, v.19 Suppl 1 (1999) pp.53-7.
Abstract: "In the last 10 years of his life, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) experienced a gradually progressive decline in neurological function. Dr. Alajouanine examined Ravel, noting the presence of aphasia and apraxia with relative preservation of comprehension and memory. The exact diagnosis remains unclear, but the likelihood of a progressive degenerative disorder, such as frontotemporal dementia, is herein discussed."
DUBB, A. Musician's maladies--of what did they die? Maurice Ravel (1872-1937).
Adler Museum Bulletin, v.25(2) (1999, Jul) pp.25-6.
WEINSTEIN, L. Ravel's Brain.
Toronto, Paris: Rhombus Media and Ideal Audience, 2000.
BAECK, Erik. Casuspositic met kritische analyse van Maurice Ravel's neurologische ziekte. [Case presentation with critical analysis of Maurice Ravel's neurological disease].
Verhandelingen / Koninklijke Academie voor Geneeskunde van Belgie, v.63 (2001) pp.543-560.
AMADUCCI, L.; GRASSI, E.; BOLLER, Francois. Maurice Ravel and right-hemisphere musical creativity: Influence of disease on his last musical works?
European Journal of Neurology, v.9(1) (2002, Jan) pp.75-82
Abstract: "It is sometimes thought that language and music are two sides of the same intellectual coin, but research on brain-damaged patients has shown that the loss of verbal functions (aphasia) is not necessarily accompanied by a loss of musical abilities (amusia). Amusia without aphasia has also been described. This double dissociation indicates functional autonomy in these mental processes. Yet verbal and musical impairments often occur together. An illustration of these concepts is provided by the case of the French composer Maurice Ravel, who suffered from a progressive cerebral disease of uncertain aetiology, with prominent involvement of the left hemisphere. As a result, Ravel experienced aphasia and apraxia and became unable to compose. The available facts favour a clinical diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia (PPA), with the possibility of an overlap with corticobasal degeneration (CBD). In view of Ravels clinical history, we propose that two of his final compositions, the Bolero and the Concerto for the Left Hand, include certain patterns characteristic of right-hemisphere musical abilities and may show the influence of disease on the creative process."
BAECK, Erik. Maurice Ravel and right hemisphere activity.
European Journal of Neurology, v.9(3) (2002, May) p.321
Abstract: "Comments on the article by L. Amaducci et al (2002, above) that examined the influence of neurological disease on Maurice Ravel's last musical works. The author argues that there are no reasons whatsoever- -chronological, neurocognitive or musical--to suggest that the Concerto for the Left Hand was influenced by cerebral lesions.
MARINS, Elza Marques. Maurice Ravel and right hemisphere activity.
European Journal of Neurology, v.9(3) (2002, May) pp.320-321
Abstract: "Comments on the article by L. Amaducci et al (2002, above) that examined the influence of neurological disease on Maurice Ravel's last musical works. The author argues that it is a fallacy to consider the Bolero as harmonically, melodically and rhythmically poor."
GRASSI, Enrico; BOLLER, Francois. Maurice Ravel and right hemisphere activity--Reply.
European Journal of Neurology, v.9(3) (2002, May) pp.321-322
Abstract: "Responds to commentaries from E. Marins (2002, above) and E. Baeck (2002, above) on the authors' article (see Amaducci, 2002, above) that examined the influence of neurological disease on Maurice Ravel's last musical works. The authors agree with Marins' comments on their article and refute Baeck's assertion that reports suggesting that Ravel experienced neurological problems prior to 1932 should be dismissed."
OTTE, Andreas; AUDENAERT, Kurt; OTTE, Karina. Did Maurice Ravel have a whiplash syndrome?
Medical Science Monitor, v.9(5) (2003, May) LE9.
WARREN, Jason. Maurice Ravel's amusia.
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine v.96(6) (2003, Jun) pp.284-7.
OTTE, Andreas; DE BONDT, Pieter; VAN DE WIELE, Christophe; AUDENAERT, Kurt; DIERCKX, Rudi A. The exceptional brain of Maurice Ravel.
Medical Science Monitor, v.9(6) (2003, Jun) RA133-8.
Abstract: "This historical review describes the brain disease which afflicted the great impressionist-classicist composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). The usual interpretation of the symptoms Ravel exhibited during his disease is primary progressive aphasia / Pick's disease. Some authors see this as the cause for his lost musical creativity during the last years of his life. By contrast, in our review it is presented why a car accident in 1932, with the probable consequence of a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, could be the key event in his life, triggering the loss of his ability to compose. In addition, the influence of Ravel's disease on his musical style is evaluated. Although some authors see a link, we try to explain why there is no clear evidence for this."
SEELEY, William W.; MATTHEWS,B.R.; CRAWFORD, R.K.; GORNO-TEMPINI, M.L.; FOTI, D.; MACKENZIE, I.R.; MILLER, B.L. Unravelling Boléro: progressive aphasia, transmodal creativity and the right posterior neocortex.
Brain, v.131(1) (2008) pp.39-49.
Abstract: "Most neurological lesion studies emphasize performance deficits that result from focal brain injury. Here, we describe striking gains of function in a patient with primary progressive aphasia, a degenerative disease of the human language network. During the decade before her language deficits arose, Anne Adams (AA), a lifelong scientist, developed an intense drive to produce visual art. Paintings from AA's artistic peak revealed her capacity to create expressive transmodal art, such as renderings of music in paint, which may have reflected an increased subjective relatedness among internal perceptual and conceptual images. AA became fascinated with Maurice Ravel, the French composer who also suffered from a progressive aphasia, and painted his best-known work, ‘Boléro’, by translating its musical elements into visual form. Later paintings, achieved when AA was nearly mute, moved towards increasing photographic realism, perhaps because visual representations came to dominate AA's mental landscape during this phase of her illness. Neuroimaging analyses revealed that, despite severe degeneration of left inferior frontal-insular, temporal and striatal regions, AA showed increased grey matter volume and hyperperfusion in right posterior neocortical areas implicated in heteromodal and polysensory integration. The findings suggest that structural and functional enhancements in non-dominant posterior neocortex may give rise to specific forms of visual creativity that can be liberated by dominant inferior frontal cortex injury."
SELLAL, François. A few comments on Ravel's disease.
Brain, v.131(8) (2008) e98.
Abstract: Comments on article by Seeley et al. (2008, above) and questions a diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia (PPA); discusses the chronology of the appearance of Ravel's symptoms; suggests a diagnosis of a focal parietal atrophy.
SEELEY, William W.; MATTHEWS, B.R.; MILLER, B.L. Reply: A few comments on Ravel's diseases.
Brain, v.131(8) (2008) e99.
Abstract: Reply to comments by Sellal (2008, above); notes that PPAs form part of "an overlapping clinical spectrum" of syndromes; suggests that the intensified creativity represented in Boléro is consistent with pre-symptomatic PPA.
WARREN, Jason D. and ROHRER, Jonathan D. Ravel's last illness: a unifying hypothesis.
Brain, v.132(6) (2009) e114.
Abstract: Seeks to draw together aspects of proposals by Seeley (2008, above) and Sellal (2008, above), noting recent advances in understanding of mutations in the progranulin (GRN) gene. "We propose that Ravel may have had a cerebral TDP43opathy on the basis of a GRN mutation."
KANAT, A.; KAYACI, S.; YAZAR, U.; YILMAZ, A. What makes Maurice Ravel's deadly craniotomy interesting? Concerns of one of the most famous craniotomies in history.
Acta Neurochirurgica (Wien), v.152(4) (2010) pp.737-742. Epub 2009 Sep 25.
Abstract: The history of Ravel's progressive dementia and the contribution of a car accident, following which he was unable to function, have received a certain amount of interest in the neurological literature previously, but his fatal craniotomy was not evaluated from a neurosurgery perspective. The car accident in 1932, with the probable consequence of a mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury, could be the key event in his life, triggering the loss of his ability to compose. This event needs to be kept in mind. In 1937, Ravel died after the craniotomy performed by Vincent, but only a speculative, retrospective diagnosis is possible since an autopsy was not undertaken.
BAECK, Erik. The longstanding medical fascination with 'le cas Ravel'.
In: Ravel studies, edited by Deborah Mawer. Cambridge University Press, 2010. pp.187-208.
CAVALLERA, Guido M.; GIUDICI, Simonetta; TOMMASI, Luca. Shadows and darkness in the brain of a genius: aspects of the neuropsychological literature about the final illness of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
Medical Science Monitor, 2012 (June): v.18(10) MH1-8.
Abstract: This article reviews various theories about Ravel's illness. "Many hypotheses have been proposed by researchers, but complete diagnosis is still an enigma, since no post-mortem was made. The most up-to-date perspective seems to point to comorbidity of superimposed elements, which might date back to the composer’s fragile youth."