3/19/2007

Patterns

Let me preface this journal entry by saying sorry if I get a little technical or unclear, but I'm trying to get the information out before I forget everything. I'll add links later, and if you have questions/comments/suggestions, feel free to post.



This morning I woke up and a rock song was playing over and over in my head. This has happened before to me, once with "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns 'n' Roses, and once with an Audioslave song.* I'm blanking on the one from this morning, but the point is that I had a repetitive clip of music in my head and I couldn't think of ANYTHING else. My first thought, was, here's my aura, I'm going to have a seizure.

Well I've tried to counteract this the few times it's happened by just thinking of some other song. But the rock had won out over all my other thoughts. This morning, however, for a certain reason the first song I thought of was a repetitive song with clear lyrics. Think of any pop song with sugary sweet, memorable lyrics.**



I noticed that the more I thought of the first few lines the more it helped. I had either just talked to Cassidy on the phone or called her up, and she told me she had the flu and said she was "clammy," a word I had her repeat for my own entertainment. Eventually, for some reason it seemed like I avoided a seizure, because I ended up at work feeling a slight headache.

The reason I say I avoided a seizure was because mine have never stopped on their own- they are always chemically stopped***. However, as the day has gone on I've realized that maybe I did have a seizure and it was just stopped in its tracks. For one, I have a splitting headache (ironically making me happy!) in the areas of my brain where I have my seizures (forehead, above the left ear). Also, I don't remember what exactly happened this morning and in what order. This means my episodic memory was impaired, which happens when I have my seizures.

So sitting here (coincidentally, in a neuroanatomy laboratory where I work) I decided to do some research. Auditory auras are known and documented, although I haven't found anything about the processing of rock 'n' roll vs. sugary pop music. But I do know that I couldn't play a saxophone right, or any musical instrument for that matter (except maybe a recorder).



But think of this- seizures are just your brain cells firing too quickly and indirectly. My conscious thought to focus on repetitive, predicable music patterns may have had an effect on focusing the brain firings. Think it's too far fetched? Well how about this- I looked up how your brain "hears" music, and it's done in the auditory cortex, right between the two lobes of my brain that are affected by my seizures. But what happens when we think of music?



Notice in the figure how my symptoms are all in one area. Face movement is right near the auditory cortex, which would explain my facial twitches during seizures! And most telling, the area that controls vocalization, Broca's area is there too, which would explain why I can't talk during my seizures****.

I'm still researching this but I'd be willing to bet that when you think of music, it is sent from somewhere else to the auditory cortex. This is why you can "hear" when you think of music. That pathway must still have been working, and it worked to override the powerful melody residing in my auditory cortex (right above my left ear!).

Think of it this way, there was a battle of the bands in my head, and only one band showed up because of traffic problems. A second band finally showed up and won by taking an alternate route. Make sense? It's all about the brain's firing and wiring.

Interesting sidenote: I was looking for papers on auditory auras, and who did Google pull up? My neurologist. Who, coincidentally, now works across the street. Try to get your head around THAT. Suffice to say I'll be asking him about all this.

* It's probably important to note that I don't listen to much rock, but in all three cases I had listened to the song the day before in some context, and it was a song I particularly like.
** It was "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne!
*** with Diazepam (aka Valium). Not to be confused with Zonisamide (Zonegran), the daily pills I've since stopped taking (see the last journal entry).
**** If you're thinking, oh this means he has a tumor! Trust me, they've checked and "It's not a tumor!" It could be childhood trauma (I fell down steps and landed on my head as a kid), it could be a side effect of Accutane, it could be the fact that I was drinking lots of booze and taking sudafed and not eating right the week before, it could be anything but a tumor. In fact, there's even an interesting voodoo doll theory that I'll save for another day.

6 comments:

Online Short Films said...

You gave up LiveJournal for this Google-sanctioned bull?

Anonymous said...

Check this out....

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
by Daniel J. Levitin

Drew said...

haha yeah rob, it wasn't so much a question of features, but for some reason everytime i wrote a blurb on livejournal it came out a little juvenile.

and "anonymous" (eric?), thanks for the tip. i'll look around work and see if anybody has a copy since everybody plays an instrument and looks at the brain.

RØB said...

Damn you shoulda told me, though, I just found this like the other week, and you've been making entries for a damned coon's age! I created an RSS feed so any of your old LJ fans can keep track of when you make entries on their handy-dandy friendspages.

Online Short Films said...

Reason #562 that Blogger sucks:

It reformatted my name to be in all lowercase, thereby rendering it NOT MY NAME AT ALL!

That's sweet that you authored a Wikipedia page; I make corrections and changes as I see fit (with some frequency) but none of them is my original work from the ground up.

Drew said...

yeah you should make a wikipedia page or two- i think everybody is an expert on something. i'm going to add a wikipedia page for "spoon hockey" next.