Woman tracks seizure trigger to rap song

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
January 17, 2008 3:31:21 PM PST
The cause of epilepsy: A problem with the brain's electrical signals. But a lot is still unknown about what causes those signals to malfunction. Today we heard about an amazing medical mystery, a popular rap song triggering a seizure.It's a very rare disorder, maybe five or six cases in the country: Epileptic seizures triggered by music. It's called musicogenic epilepsy. In this fascinating case today, a young woman in Queens suddenly began having epileptic seizures. The stimulus? a rap song.

What the Sean Paul song turned on in Stacey Gayle's brain is a rare- occurring mystery: Epileptic seizures triggered by music.

Stacey Gayle, Epilepsy Patient: "They started out slow and then four times a week maybe more. We didn't know at first what was triggering the seizures until we found out that it was Sean Paul."

The connection came when Stacey noticed the song had been playing before she had two of the seizures.

Later and after dozens of unsuccessful brain scans he doctors were able to induce the seizures and diagnose the type of epilepsy by playing the Sean Paul song during a special PET scan.

Dr. Alan Ettinger, Long Island Jewish Medical Center: "The fact that they were provoked by melody is unusual, and why we needed to use a diagnostic technique to figure out what was going on."

At Long Island Jewish hospital this morning, the doctors explained that the problem was not with the song but with the brain.

Dr. Ashesh Mehta, Long Island Jewish Medical Center: "The pattern that music creates may set up a pattern of activity in the brain that may cause seizure."

Last fall, it took two surgeries to find the tiny spot in the brain with the problem and cut it out.

Stacey is now seizure free. What does she say about Sean Paul's music?

"I think his music is awesome, actually," she said.

This was ironically specially hard on Stacey as she is a hard core music lover and a member of her church choir. The seizures eventually were also brought on by other kinds of Reggae music. Chances are very good that the seizures may never return but she remains on medication.