Posts Tagged musicogenic epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common neurological condition affecting around 1% of the world’s population. It is characterized by the recurrent occurrence of seizures, which are disturbances of the electrical activity in the brain. The type and frequency of seizures vary widely and affect different people in different ways. The causes of epilepsy are in many instances unknown and also highly variable, ranging from brain injury to substance abuse and even genetic factors.
Most patients with epilepsy achieve a remission in seizures with the currently available antiepileptic drug therapy. However, for around one third of the patients, remission is not effectively achieved, which means that seizures are recurrent, thereby affecting their quality of life and being at greater risk of depression, anxiety, and even death. These patients require multiple drug trials and, in some cases, even surgery or neurostimulation procedures.
The majority of focal seizures originate in the temporal lobe, a vital area for memory, language, auditory, and sensory processing. In a group of epilepsy conditions known as reflex epilepsies, seizures can be triggered by several different stimuli, the most common of which is light (photosensitivity). But other unusual (and surprising!) triggers have also been described in medical literature, such as reading, hot water, tooth brushing or eating.
Music also plays an important part in epilepsy. A great review by Melissa Maguire titled “Music and its association with epileptic disorders” was published in the volume “Music, Neurology, and Neuroscience: Evolution, the Musical Brain, Medical Conditions, and Therapies” of Progress in Brain Research, earlier this year.
As discussed in that review, the connection between music and epilepsy is very complex and interesting. This is because music actually has a dichotomous effect on epileptic seizures – in some patients, music brings benefit, while in others, music can trigger seizures and lead to musicophobia. And there are also those cases where musical hallucinations arise as part of an epileptic seizure.
Music as a trigger of epileptic seizures
This form of reflex epilepsy where patients experience seizures after listening to music is known as musicogenic epilepsy; it is rare, but it has been reported since the 19th century.