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20 October 2015

Sudoku puzzle triggers seizures in student

Scientists have revealed how solving sudoku puzzles triggered seizures in a young German student. The 25-year-old physical education student had survived being buried by an avalanche and deprived of oxygen for 15 minutes during a ski-ing trip. He afterwards developed muscles jerks whenever he tried to speak or walk.

However, while in hospital he noticed that when he was trying to solve a sudoku puzzle, he developed clonic seizures in his left arm which had not been injured in the accident. When he stopped trying to solve the problem, the seizures - repeated muscle jerks - ceased.

Commenting on the case, Professor Ley Sander, medical director at Epilepsy Society said: 'This is a very rare case of reflex epilepsy where seizures are triggered by a specific stimulus. Photosensitive epilepsy is the most common reflex epilepsy with seizures triggered by lights flashing at between 3-30 flashes per second. Some people report that their seizures are triggered by certain types of music, reading or even cleaning their teeth.

Self-management of seizures

‘More commonly, many people with epilepsy are aware that their seizures may be triggered by tiredness, stress, lack of regular meals or alcohol. This man has been able to avoid his seizures by avoiding sudoku puzzles. For most people, lifestyle changes can help with self-management to give them the best possible seizure control.’

The German student has now stopped doing sudoku puzzles and has been seizure free for five years. Scientists studying his case said that it was likely that oxygen deprivation - hypoxia - had caused damage in his brain which triggered reflex epilepsy when he tried to tackle the mathematical puzzle.

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