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Archive for Saturday, March 8, 2008

Woman discovers music gives her seizures, has surgery

March 8, 2008

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— Stacey Gayle of Queens loved reggae. Hip-hop was cool, too. And she loved to sing alto in the Saddle Rock Tabernacle Choir.

One problem: Her beloved music was giving her epileptic seizures.

The seizures, which started when she was 21, were getting more frequent and unpredictable, sometimes as many as 10 a day. On a Queens bus, surrounded by people with iPods, she caught the vibes and had a seizure. Finally she took her misery to the Comprehensive Epileptic Center at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

It was small comfort to learn that she was one of only five people in the world known to suffer from musicogenic epilepsy - seizures triggered by music. Almost on the verge of suicide, Gayle submitted to brain surgery.

But it wasn't easy. To pinpoint the seizure-causing location, Dr. Ashesh Mehta, director of epilepsy surgery, had to first obtain an image of Gayle's brain activity before a seizure, then induce a seizure and get another study after it. Here Gayle had the answer: Listening to the song "Temperature" by Sean Paul, a Jamaican dancehall artist, had triggered seizures in the past.

Two minutes into "Temperature" on her iPod, the electrodes placed on her scalp showed she was having a seizure. Doctors quickly injected a radioactive tracer that flowed to the abnormal area of the brain.

A follow-up PET (positron emission tomography) scan revealed a small part on the right side of the brain, called the mesial temporal lobe, where the seizure originated.

Dr. Alan B. Ettinger, chief of the hospital's epilepsy division and one of the country's leading authorities on the disorder, said removal of the abnormal area should result in "better brain functioning."

The abnormal area acts like an electrical system gone awry, sending out wild signals to the rest of the brain, he said.

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