Jan. 19, 2008 — -- Stacey Gayle really liked dancehall reggae artist Sean Paul's music, but it turned out one of his popular songs was also triggering her epileptic seizures.
"It was terrible," said Gayle, a 24-year-old New Yorker. "It didn't even have to be that loud."
The seizures were so bad that Gayle recently had part of her brain surgically removed in an effort to control her problem.
Gayle began noticing the connection between the seizures and the music in 2006, when one of Sean Paul's tracks, "Temperature," was popular. One of the first music-induced seizures happened at a cookout where the song was being played, "then it happened at a restaurant," said Gayle.
"She realized her life was going out of control with these seizures happening," said Dr. Ashesh Mehta, the director of epilepsy surgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Mehta recalled meeting Gayle last February to discuss her condition. When Gayle's mother played '"Temperature" on an mp3 player for her daughter to hear, a music-induced seizure followed.
"It was amazing to me," said Mehta. "We got a seizure when we put her music on."
More than 3 million people in the United States are affected by seizures and epilepsy -- a diagnosis that typically comes when someone has a pattern of repeated seizures.
A number of different sensations can trigger an epileptic seizure, including certain odors, loud noises, touching and flashes of light.
But musicogenic, or music-triggered, seizures are far less common.
"We typically see one or two patients a year who have it," said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the epilepsy center at New York University Medical Center.
There is no one type of music that triggers such reactions. For some, jazz might set off the seizure; for others, rock 'n' roll is the culprit, or country music. And in many cases, it's not the actual sound or rhythm of the music that poses the problem; it's the emotional connection that one has to the song he or she is hearing.
Essentially, the part of the brain that processes music and emotions associated with music can be overlapping with areas of the brain that trigger seizures, explained Devinsky.