Featured Speaker Susannah Cahalan Presents Brain on Fire on February 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets available Monday, Jan. 23 at the Main Hall Information Desk. Limit four tickets per person.

It looked like a scene out of a horror film – a terrified young woman wakes up in a strange hospital room, strapped to a bed, unable to move or speak, and with no memory of why she is there. Strange people were all around her, and she was under guard 24 hours a day.

But the most harrowing part of her story was that this was no Hollywood movie. It really happened.

Back in 2009, then-24-year-old Susannah Cahalan, who was just embarking on a new life in New York City with a new boyfriend and as a reporter for The New York Post, began, literally, to lose her mind. In addition to suffering violent seizures, she was tortured by terrifying hallucinations, intense mood swings, insomnia and fierce paranoia. Cahalan spent a month in the hospital, barely recognizable to her family, friends and coworkers, before doctors diagnosed her with a rare autoimmune disorder called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Cahalan, who has since recovered, will share her remarkable story when she speaks as part of Kent State University at Stark’s 26th Featured Speakers Series on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. at the Conference Center. Cahalan will be the third speaker of the 2016-17 series. Tickets will be available beginning Monday, Jan. 23, at the Main Hall Information Desk. All Featured Speakers Series programs are free and open to the public; however, tickets are required. 

Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, first identified in 2007, is an autoimmune disease that occurs when antibodies turn on the brain and cause it to become inflamed.

“Her brain is on fire,” one doctor told her family. “Her brain is under attack by her own body.”

Cahalan’s book, “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness,” recounts – through her extensive research of hospital security videotapes and interviews with her friends, family and the doctors who finally managed to save her life – her experience as a victim of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Her medical records, from a month-long hospital stay of which she has no memory, showed psychosis, violence and dangerous instability. Since sharing her story, thousands more have been diagnosed with the same autoimmune disease and saved the anguish and cost of misdiagnoses.

Cahalan still works as a reporter for the Post and, in 2009, following her recovery, was the recipient of the Silurian Award of Excellence for the article, “My Mysterious Lost Month of Madness.” A major motion picture, “Brain on Fire,” based on Cahalan’s book and starring Chloe Grace Moretz, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and has yet to be released in the U.S.

For more information about the Featured Speakers Series, contact Kelly Simonis at 330-244-3223 or ksimonis@kent.edu.

Featured Speakers Series at Kent State Stark


POSTED: Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 4:04pm
UPDATED: Saturday, January 14, 2017 - 12:01pm
Laura M. Massie