And Now For Something a Little Bit Different … Epilepsy and the Electromagnetic Spectrum – What’s the frequency Kenneth?

This post started out as something else. I wanted to talk about my relationship with the electric light box and was looking for information on television and computers and epilepsy. BUT, like many of my searches this one turned into an EPIC surf.

Way back in the days when there was such a thing as black and white televisions, I had my first seizure in front of one. It was the first of many, but since then my relationship between TV, strip lights, computers, patterned carpets and mobile phones has been ‘complicated’.

One of my friends told me that her friend with epilepsy couldn’t put a mobile phone within 3 inches of her head without having a seizure. I am not quite that bad, BUT I always wanted to know why?

Photosensitive (1) epilepsy according to Epilepsy Action is experienced by about 3 in every 100 people with epilepsy. Most people with photosensitive epilepsy are sensitive to 16-25 Hz. Some people may be sensitive to rates as low as 3 Hz and as high as 60 Hz.’

For people with photosensitive epilepsy the number of times a computer screen or television ‘refreshes’ or flickers may case a seizure.

With the dawn of a digital age things have changed slightly (a lot!) since I had my first seizure and so liquid crystal screens have replaced the old cathode ray tubes in televisions that used to be such a bother to people with the wrong seizure threshold. This is obviously for the better in my case! (2) However the risk has not been completely removed because the newer screens are brighter and have more contrasting colors.

Is it me or does anybody else find the electric light box just a teensy, weensy bit hypnotic??

Obviously new technology has brought many benefits to the epileptic brain, for example MRI scanning, EEG, FMRI scanning, TMS, CAT scans and of course for anyone with broken bones there is the X-ray.

Now there is even have electric stuff they can attach to your head for seizures see Epilepsy Talk post (3)

Where would we be without the magnetic resonance image? And just what is an FMRI? Online research studies are so plentiful that you’d think in China FMRI is the new ‘digital camera’ of brain research, and everyone else is ditching Polaroid fast to follow not far behind. The American Military find photographing the brain with FMRI quite fascinating as well. Has to make you wonder –WHY? There are some quite interesting studies about ELF and the brain coming from China as well (4) and there are some detailed studies of radio-frequency and Electromagnetic fields online (5)

(6)Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging is described by wiki as;

‘The fMRI concept builds on the earlier MRI scanning technology and the discovery of properties of oxygen-rich blood. MRI brain scans use a strong, permanent, static magnetic field to align nuclei in the brain region being studied. Another magnetic field, the gradient field, is then applied to kick the nuclei to higher magnetization levels, with the effect depending on where they are located. When the gradient field is removed, the nuclei go slowly back to their original states, and the energy they emit is measured with a coil to recreate the positions of the nuclei. MRI thus provides a static structural view of brain matter. The central thrust behind fMRI was to extend MRI to capture functional changes in the brain caused by neuronal activity. Differences in magnetic properties between arterial (oxygen-rich) and venous (oxygen-poor) blood provided this link.[7]

So obviously for brain imaging this is a very useful piece of technology.

Then there is TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. (7) TMS has some seriously interesting effects on the epileptic brain.

‘Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive method to cause depolarization or hyperpolarization in the neurons of the brain. TMS uses electromagnetic induction to induce weak electric currents using a rapidly changing magnetic field; this can cause activity in specific or general parts of the brain with minimal discomfort, allowing the functioning and interconnections of the brain to be studied. A variant of TMS, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), has been tested as a treatment tool for various neurological and psychiatric disorders including migraines, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, tinnitus, depression and auditory hallucinations.’

Could this explain why a mobile phone could cause a seizure? What are the risks of TMS?

‘Although TMS is often regarded as safe, the greatest acute risk of TMS is the rare occurrence of induced seizures and syncope.[4] More than 16 cases of TMS-related seizure have been reported in the literature, with at least seven reported before the publication of safety guidelines in 1998,[5] and more than nine reported afterwards. The seizures have been associated with single-pulse and rTMS. Reports have stated that in at least some cases, predisposing factors (medication, brain lesions or genetic susceptibility) may have contributed to the seizure. A review of nine seizures associated with rTMS that had been reported after 1998 stated that four seizures were within the safety parameters, four were outside of those parameters, and one had occurred in a healthy volunteer with no predisposing factors. A 2009 international consensus statement on TMS that contained this review concluded that based on the number of studies, subjects and patients involved with TMS research, the risk of seizure with rTMS is considered very low.[4]

Besides seizures, other risks include fainting, minor pains such as headache or local discomfort, minor cognitive changes and psychiatric symptoms (particularly a low risk of mania in depressed patients).[4] Though other side effects are thought to be possibly associated with TMS (alterations to the endocrine system, altered neurotransmitter and immune system activity) they are considered investigational and lacking substantive proof.[4]

All very interesting studies that relate to the use of electromagnetic technology and brain science.

So what other studies have been carried out?

Solar Power

Perhaps the most unusual studies I have read about are those carried out by scientists in Calcutta. (8)

Correlation between convulsive seizure and geomagnetic activity.

Rajaram M, Mitra S.

Abstract

‘The annual percentage of patients with convulsive seizure in the Neurological Department of the Bangur Institute of Neurology, Calcutta, is found to be significantly correlated with the annual values of sunspot numbers and geomagnetic activity indices for the period 1955–1971. For a particular geomagnetic activity index the correlation coefficient is significant at a 99% confidence level. The study shows that a proper choice of elements in the series is important in studies undertaken to establish the biological effects of solar activity.’

One blogger has even explored his wife’s relationship with solar flares (9) and in February 2011 the epilepsy.com forum (10) became host to a really interesting conversation and debate about the effects of solar and geomagnetic stress on epilepsy. If you like me think that lunar events effect your seizures then check out the solar activity!

At Aaron’s reality blogspot (11) he writes the hypothesis on solar flares –‘With this compression of the earth’s magnetosphere pushes the electrical fields in the neural network from their neurons. This shuts down the brain. The body reacts by sending signals back to the medulla oblongata. This low level neural network is more robust. With every autonomic contraction the body is trying to send low level input data back to the brain. This slow recovery is necessary.’

I thought that a report on how vitamin D deficiency has been found to improve seizure control was interesting because of the vitamin D production in the skin when exposed to sunlight. (12)

This you tube video sums up nicely some of the unusual results of solar research and the brain. (see abouve).

In relation to geomagnetism one study appears to be making comparisons to human EEG measurement and earthquake measurement.

For me this begs the question; ‘During a seizure is your body having an earthquake?’ (13)(14)

Apparently scientists in Regional Epilepsy Centre, Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA, asked patients with epilepsy this very question in a survey following the earthquake in February 28, 2001 Nisqually. 23% of the epileptic patients volunteered that they initially thought they were having a seizure during the earthquake. (15)

The Epilepsy Therapy Project(16) recently reported on a study in Japan showing an increase in epileptic seizures in the 8 weeks following the tsunami in japan in 2011. The theory behind this is that higher stress triggered the increase in seizures. The study does not mention any increase in seizures on the day or in the days preceding the earthquake.

For me epilepsy is an ideal area to begin to look at the complex relationship we have with the electromagnetic spectrum, physics and biology or biophysics (17).

1) http://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/photosensitive-epilepsy

2) http://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/photosensitive-epilepsy/computer-television-screens

3) http://epilepsytalk.com/2013/03/04/predicting-seizures-7-amazing-new-breakthroughs-3/

4) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0054376China Study

5) http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317133827077Health effects from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields full report – Report of the independent advisory group on non-ionising radiation 348 pages

6)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_magnetic_resonance_imaging

7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_magnetic_stimulation

8) ) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7254715 Correlation between convulsive seizure and geomagnetic activity.

Rajaram M, Mitra S.

9) )http://johndavidpowell.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/6-open-blog-friday-japan-earthquake-solar-flares-gas-boycott-and-more/

10) http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/f23/seizures-solar-geomagnetic-activity-11768/

11) http://aaronsreality.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/certain-types-of-epilepsy-and-solar.html  solar flares

12) http://blog.vitamindcouncil.org/2012/04/18/correction-of-vitamin-d-deficiency-improves-seizure-control-in-epilepsy/

13) http://arxiv.org/pdf/1209.3803v1.pdf Earthquakes

14) Dynamical analogy between epileptic seizures and seismogenic electromagnetic emissions by means of nonextensive statistical mechanics

Authors:Konstantinos Eftaxias, George Minadakis, Stelios. M. Potirakis, George Balasis

(Submitted on 17 Sep 2012)

15)http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/f23/seizures-solar-geomagnetic-activity-11768/index6.html  Earthquake and seizures

16) http://www.epilepsy.com/newsletter/feb13/japan_earthquake

17) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biophysics