Weird: Playing Sudoku Triggers Man's Seizures

It's connected to his survival of an avalanche
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2015 7:28 AM CDT
Puzzler: Avalanche Survivor Suffers Sudoku Seizures
A competitor works to solve a Sudoku puzzle during the Sudoku Tournament in Philadelphia, Saturday Oct. 20, 2007.   (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek)

A 25-year-old German skier survived an avalanche that buried him without oxygen for 15 minutes, thanks in no small part to his paramedic ski buddy, who rescued him and started CPR immediately. But the lack of oxygen to his body tissues and brain (called hypoxia) took a toll, notes Live Science, and University of Munich researchers report in JAMA Neurology that it manifested in a quite unusual side effect. First, he developed muscle jerks brought on by walking and talking, and at one point in the hospital he started a Sudoku puzzle, and the muscles in his left arm—which was not injured—began to spasm in what the doctors called "clonic" seizures, reports CBS News.

"We can look at the brain as a network system," says Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Elson So, who was not involved in the research. "There are some centers for mathematical concepts and others for language. The authors have shown with some evidence that the fibers connecting the centers were damaged." Thanks to this damage, the fibers that control excitation for mathematical concepts and 3D thinking were essentially hyper-activated, and because the patient visualized solutions to Sudoku puzzles in 3D, the activity triggered epilepsy. Five years later, physical therapy improved the twitches brought on by walking and talking, and he's steered clear of seizures altogether thanks to epilepsy meds—and avoiding Sudoku completely. (Epilepsy may have fueled Chopin's hallucinations.)

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