Novel held clue to writer’s illness

Murdoch “Iris Murdoch’s last novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, was about a mysterious disappearance. But it tells another story, according to neuroscientists today. It subtly reveals the onset of Alzheimer’s disease before the author herself could have known.

Peter Garrard, of the institute of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, and colleagues compared early novels of Iris Murdoch – Under the Net and The Sea, The Sea – with her final work, and found that her vocabulary had dwindled and her language become simpler. Alzheimer’s is difficult to establish with certainty until after death, but the evidence was there in her last work, diagnosed by computer-based analysis of word use, Dr Garrard reports in the December issue of the journal Brain.”

More here by Tim Radford, science editor at The Guardian.