Despite Sudoku’s reputation of helping the mind stay fit, a 25-year-old German patient develops seizures every time he tires to solve the puzzle. The oddity puzzled scientists statewide for several years, but a University of Munich team solves medical enigma of man who got seizures from Sudoku.
Yet, the patient was not always like that. His problems started after a skiing incident which trapped him under the snow following an avalanche. The event happened in November 2008, when the man was skiing with a friend. Fortunately, the friend was a paramedic and managed to rescue him in time.
The patient needed CPR as the avalanche knocked him unconscious. Emergency crews found that the man had also a ruptured spleen and severely injured his hip. Moreover, while he was under the snow, his body was deprived of oxygen for 15 minutes.
As a result, the patient’s body developed a rare syndrome that triggers muscle twitches. The twitches occurred whenever he talked and walked. While in hospital, his left arm started to trouble him. His arms’ muscles began contracting and jerking really quickly in a seizure-like manner. The condition is called clonic seizure and physicians prescribed him epilepsy drugs to seize it.
But several weeks later when he was moved into another facility for recovery, another problem occurred. When he was focusing on a Sudoku puzzle clonic seizures in his left arm recurred.
Doctors realized that there was something wrong with Sudoku when they saw that the man had no reaction to other mentally challenging activities such as reading a book or solving a math problem.
Seizures emerged only when he tried to solve the numerical grid puzzles. Doctors learned from the man had a very vivid 3-D imagination that helped him put the numbers in a correct sequence.
Researchers explained that when the patient was oxygen deprived his inhibitory fibers, died in the process. These fibers reined in brain signaling in the area responsible for 3-D imagination. But when the patient activated this region of the brain there was an overreaction which led to clonic seizures in his left limb.
Scientists confirmed their hypothesis when they asked the man to concentrate even more on activating his 3-D imagination. When he did it, clonic seizures became even more intense.
“When he stopped this 3D imagination, the seizures stopped immediately,”
said Dr. Berend Feddersen, senior researcher that helped the team solve the strange medical case. As a result, the patient was advised to give up Sudoku.
A research paper on the case was published Oct. 19 in the journal JAMA Neurology.
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