If I had a nickel for every time my phone's autocorrect feature worked against me, I would be one heck of a wealthy woman. The program, which is designed to automatically replace what it considers to be misspelled words with properly spelled words, has gained quite a reputation over the last few years for its hilarious digital faux pas. There are even a number of blogs that have sprung up recently that are dedicated solely to capturing to world's funniest autocorrect fails.
But according to heath experts, gibberish text messages may not always be a sign of an overzealous autocorrect feature. In fact, there has already been at least once incidence where they indicated something far more serious in the sender's health.
Last December, a Boston-area man received these two texts from his 11-week-pregnant wife:
"every where thinging days nighing"
"Some is where!"
He might have laughed it off as an epic autocorrect fail, but he knew that the feature was turned of on his wife's phone. So instead, he found his wife and rushed her to the ER where the doctors noted that his wife was experiencing several signs of a stroke, including disorientation, inability to use her right arm and leg properly and some difficulty speaking. Her diagnosis was confirmed via a magnetic resonance imaging scan and she was able to get the treatment that she needed very quickly to save her own life and her baby's.
This case was reported today by three doctors from Boston's Harvard Medical School in the Archives of Neurology. The study's authors suggest that "the growing digital record will likely become an increasingly important means of identifying neurologic disease, particularly in patient populations that rely more heavily on written rather than spoken communication"
They have coined this new symptom as "dystextia," or unintelligible texts that actually reflect a serious underlying health condition. Dystextia is similar to aphasia, a term used to describe the difficulty processing language, whether it is spoken or written, that is often an indication of a stroke. The study's authors suggested that dystextia could be used more often to flag strokes and other neurological abnormalities that lead to the condition.
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