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.

2 responses on “Musicogenic Seizures

  1. 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!

  2. 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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