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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 00:58 GMT
Rubbing clue to epilepsy
brain scan
Epileptic seizures happen in small areas of the brain
Simply rubbing a small area of skin may be enough to trigger epileptic seizures in certain patients.

Research in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry details a number of cases in which patting different parts of the body brought on attacks.

In one, a 31-year-old man found that having a haircut seemed to lead to a seizure.

He later realised that if a particular part of his head was rubbed for 10 seconds or more, this caused the problem.

He tended to have seizures every day - but by inducing one prior to having his hair cut, he could go to the barbers without fear of it happening again.


For some, the trigger is listening to music, or perhaps even reading or knitting

Professor Stephen Brown, University of Plymouth
In other cases, seizures were induced by patting the shoulder, or even rubbing the left leg.

UK experts say it is possible to help patients who have specific triggers for their epilepsy by training them to adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Professor Stephen Brown, a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of Plymouth, said: "I'm not in the least bit surprised by this research.

"This is what we call an evoked seizure - and a great many people with epilepsy suffer from them.

"For some, the trigger is listening to music, or perhaps even reading or knitting."

He said the principal way of treating these patients was a process of "life hygiene" - to find the threshold of behaviour which leads to such attacks.

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See also:

18 Jul 00 | Health
Secrets of the brain
06 Mar 01 | Health
Long waits for neurology patients
19 Feb 01 | Health
Epilepsy advance brings cure hope
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