March 24, 2006

Drawing-induced epilepsy reported

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Artists beware. In the journal
Neurology this month, doctors report a case of reflex epilepsy
triggered by the experience of drawing.

At presentation, the 19-year-old student had experienced
short-lasting twitches in both arms shortly before losing
consciousness and exhibiting seizure-type activity for two
minutes. He was working on a drawing assignment at the time
symptoms began.

The patient reported previous episodes of twitching of the
arms and "special sensations" while drawing but not while
engaged in any other activities.

Brain imaging studies were normal and showed "left
hemispheric dominance" consistent with the boy being
left-handed, report Dr. Kuan H. Kho and associates at the
University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands.

However, an electroencephalogram or EEG, which measures
brain activity, conducted while the patient drew, showed spike
and wave discharges in the right front and back lobes,
coinciding with spasms of the arms, disorientation and an
inability to resume drawing for up to 30 seconds.

Other types of stimulation outside of drawing -- such as
looking at pictures and writing --did not produce activity on
EEG or any seizure-type symptoms.

"The mechanisms underlying reflex epilepsies remain
uncertain," Dr. Bruce L. Miller of the University of California
at San Francisco points out in an accompanying editorial.

"The dissociation between writing (a more common trigger
for reflex epilepsy) and drawing emphasizes the presence of
anatomically distinctive cognitive modules in the dominant and
nondominant hemispheres."

SOURCE: Neurology March 2006.