A vitamin deficiency disease which may have psychological as well as physical effects.The disorder was prevalent at one time in the Far East, where a diet of polished rice caused a serious lack of vitamin Bx (thiamine). The symptoms of beri beri are general weakness, lassitude, intestinal distress, lack of will, and sometimes Korsakoff’s syndrome. The word beri beri, which means “I cannot,” aptly describes the patient’s total reaction. The disorder is seldom found in western countries, although it may sometimes be associated with Wernicke’s syndrome.The search for the cause of beri beri led Casimir Funk (1884-1967) to the discovery of vitamins in 1912. His experiments on pigeons revealed that the bran coating of rice contains an important nutritional substance later termed thiamine. This substance, which is eliminated if the rice is polished for human consumption, was found capable of curing a form of beri beri in these birds. The discovery was then successfully applied to the disease in humans, and led to the prevention or cure of other vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy, rickets and pellagra. See METABOLIC DISORDERS, WERNICKE’S SYNDROME, KORSAKOFF’S SYNDROME, PELLAGRINOUS PSYCHOSIS.