Musicogenic Seizures

August 8, 2011

A musicogenic seizure is reflex epilepsy triggered by certain types of music or even specific frequencies of pitch for which the person’s brain has a low threshold or tolerance. These sounds trigger focal epileptiform EEG discharges in cerebral areas specific to the triggering stimulus. This usually results in a complex partial seizure, but may also induce others, such as tonic-clonic seizures.

Musicogenic seizures usually involve a degree of cognitive or emotional appreciation of the stimulus. In some cases, merely thinking of the atmosphere and the emotions associated with a certain stimulus is enough to induce a seizure. They may also occur during sleep.

Carbamazepine and phenytoin may be prescribed to control this condition. Behavioural conditioning offers other possibilities and has yielded positive results. In behavioural treatment, the patient is exposed repeatedly to a similar piece of music or even to the same piece altered sufficiently to not provoke a seizure. Eventually, the original stimulus may be heard with no ill effect.

Behavioural treatment may be time-consuming, and may need to be reinforced later to maintain desensitization. In spite of this, behavioural conditioning may prove effective in the treatment of people who do not want to avoid the triggering stimulus or take medication.

Click here to learn about other types of seizures.

10 responses on “Musicogenic Seizures

  1. Amanda Clark aged 58 years

    My name is Amanda, have had Temporal Lobe Epilepsy since age of 5 due to Measles. First time I had a ” Complex” minor seizure was 4 month after recovery. Certain sequences of musical notes, eg, opening bars of ” Monsters Paradise” will do it EVERY time I hear it! However, I never lose consciousness during it, I retain all my cognitive responses, but I have a very strange “aura” with a very intense of fear, torment, and an overwhelming urge to be sick, never do!! But feel quite ill afterwards, sore head and although my enviroment is the same, I feel my perception of it has altered. I can have one after another, 8 at the last count! Very scary, and my pulse rate rockets! When I do have Major seizures they are very intense, but very rarely are they caused by a complex partial seizure, recently had a “provoked” minor seizure whilst having an EEG, Doctors surprised when there was no change in brain waves!! Help anyone? Doctors do not appear to take on board what I’m saying, obviously new concept to them! I obviously have a very different type of complex partial fit, so if anyone out there has similar, would love to know, or if in Medical world and would diagnose it, I,d be grateful!

  2. Kurt Dauben

    I am age 66. Mine started 3 years ago. My meds do not always work. Sometimes the same piece of music triggers a partial complex seizure where I black out 10 minutes. I have enough time in the aura to start the stopwatch. When I come back out of the black I stop the stopwatch. Other times, that same piece of music is harmless.

  3. Thomas

    I hope this thread stays current, because I find it very helpful.

    I have occasional seizures (about one per year, for which I am not taking medication), which are brought on by techno music (especially autotune and heavy electronic base). It’s made worse by being in echo prone locations like shopping malls. Glaring or flashing lights don’t help either. I get over the noise by wearing in-ear headphones in places like subways.

    The other trigger is emotional, especially negative emotions like annoyance (rudeness seems to be a particular trigger).

    It’s really comforting to know that others have the same problem. I’m tired of scaring the crap out of my family by passing out in public!

  4. Di Delaney

    I’ve had epilepsy for 28 years and every time I hear ‘walking in a straightline’ by silverchair I have a seizure.I had an EEG while the song was playing and had 2 seizures my specialist just said stay away from the song. Do I have some form of musogenic epilepsy. I would love to talk to other people this happens to.

  5. anonymous

    I have complex partial seizure disorder. I think I have a few triggers – among them is certain songs. I get that familiar nauseated, out-of-body aura every time I hear the “M*A*S*H theme song”, “Riders On The Storm” and “Light My Fire” by The Doors, and most songs by The Moody Blues – especially “Nights In White Satin”.

  6. Danitra

    Hi. I’ve been having seizures since I was 17 and I just turned 37. Ever since, I’ve kept a seizure journal and found a few possible triggers. High emotions,esp negative, but also positive. Thing is, they tend to happen in church during or right after praise and worship. I have tle and fle so it possible. Has anyone else experienced this almost everytime during this type of music? I mean, I can tell when it’s about to start. Sometimes it may stop. Sometimes not. If someone sensitive to praise music, please offer how you have dealt with it.

  7. Carolann

    Firstly, let me thank you for sharing. My daughter suffers from seizures for twenty years. She gets it pretty often especially before and during meal time. She is getting much better now. I will keep you n my daughter in my daily prayers. Jesus bless n be with you everyday to protect you from danger and sickness. Wish you a speedy recovery.

  8. Lenia

    I’ve always disliked the sound of the Emergency alert system, or heck, even the emergency broadcast system’s attention signal. I’ve always felt this horrible dropping, jolting sensation in my stomach when I would hear those sounds, and it wasn’t fear or nerves. Similar sounds, such as most rising techno or overly processed or autotuned sounds, would do it, as well, I spoke to my neurologist about it, and he thought it might be psychological. I tried to explain that if it was fear, reading about it didn’t help, as I had read, literally, everything I could get my hands on about the EAS and EBS and even ConElRad figuring the more I knew the less I would be frightened. I later found out, from a sighted person, that I literally lose all colour in my face when those sounds place.y. I erstand that these systems save many, many lives, so I do not begrudge their existance, but I wonder why we don’t have a sound like Japan has, a chime that gets people’s attention, but at the same time couldn’t, or at least is less likely, to trigger, epilepstic seizures Granted, that sound might trigger it in someone else. I’ve learned that just as covering one eye helps with light-sensitive seizures, cover one ear helps with these seizures, too. I hope my words help someone.

  9. nickeisha

    Well I still have not found out what is causing my sezieures for the last. 4 years I have been having a sezieures where I would bite up my tongue pee myself. And my body would shake and fraught from my mouth .I just went to work one day and from my first attack i have an attack every month sometimes once per month and some times twice. I have been to many different doctors here in Jamaica and even over sea but none of them has been able to tell me what’s causing it i have changed my medication so many times and still no help .did.every test you can thing of and they all came back saying that they don’t see a fault

  10. Trance and House music Epilepsy


    After almost 1 year of having diagnosed by Epilepsy (Tonic-Clonic) and having problem to find the right dosage of the Carbamazepine, I found out that my trigger is the music I’m listening to.
    I’m 28 now. Since childhood I was into techno music until 2004 in which I routinely following trance and house music top DJs like Armin van Buuren and Above and Beyond. It was always playing back in my ears, at home, at work, behind the wheel, at school everywhere. Some sort of addiction you know!

    This type of music for some reason made me so focused. I’m a software programmer. Having trance beating in my ears made me faster writing the code and finding bugs! generally speaking: Thinking better!

    I don’t smoke. I drink max a beer in a week no more.

    I was listening to games music on high volume having a large headphone when I was 13 or 14. Game like NeedForSpeed, Fifa and similar which had the same type of music. I remember since then, just after falling sleep in some nights I hear a really highhhh shhshshsh sound like radio or walki talki sound in my brain until I woke up and I felt paralysis for 2 3 seconds then I took control of my body. I really like the experience! why? I don’t know. I might be a weird person I didn’t even report it to parents or complain about it. A few month ago after 15 years of having this I found out those are called “Exploding Head Syndrom” and they are some sort of light seizure while sleeping!

    You see the points and dots to connect them? The article you wrote is correct! Some type of music is ruining the brain even though we are having fun with them without knowing!
    Add computer, mobile, internet, invisible wireless waves from radio, TV, mobile, wireless router and for me focusing and pushing hard while programming.

    I’m on 800mg Carbamazepine while we are not sure if it is controlled or not! Since I had a seizure on 700mg!

    Hope my words help someone out there who is suspicious about the relation between music and epilepsy.


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