Sudden death in epileptic rats exposed to nocturnal magnetic fields that simulate the shape and the intensity of sudden changes in geomagnetic activity: An experiment in response to Schnabel, Beblo and May

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Persinger MA, McKay BE, O’Donovan CA, and Koren SA (2005) Sudden death in epileptic rats exposed to nocturnal magnetic fields that simulate the shape and the intensity of sudden changes in geomagnetic activity: An experiment in response to Schnabel, Beblo and May. Int J Biometeorol 49:4 256–61.

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Abstract: To test the hypothesis that sudden unexplained death (SUD) in some epileptic patients is related to geomagnetic activity we exposed rats in which limbic epilepsy had been induced to experimentally produced magnetic fields designed to simulate sudden storm commencements (SSCs). Prior studies with rats had shown that sudden death in groups of rats in which epilepsy had been induced months earlier was associated with the occurrence of SSCs and increased geomagnetic activity during the previous night. Schnabel et al. [(2000) Neurology 54:903-908] found no relationship between SUD in human patients and geomagnetic activity. A total of 96 rats were exposed to either 500, 50, 10-40 nT or sham (less than 10 nT) magnetic fields for 6 min every hour between midnight and 0800 hours (local time) for three successive nights. The shape of the complex, amplitude-modulated magnetic fields simulated the shape and structure of an average SSC. The rats were then seized with lithium and pilocarpine and the mortality was monitored. Whereas 10% of the rats that had been exposed to the sham field died within 24 h, 60% of the rats that had been exposed to the experimental magnetic fields simulating natural geomagnetic activity died (P<.001) during this period. These results suggest that correlational analyses between SUD in epileptic patients and increased geomagnetic activity can be simulated experimentally in epileptic rats and that potential mechanisms might be testable directly.

Keywords: Sudden death, Epilepsy, Sudden storm commencement, Geomagnetic activity

Context

  • Animal study that exposed rats to magnetic fields for 48 mintues per night over 3 nights then pharmacologically induced seizures. Mortality was greater in the group that had been exposed to magnetic fields versus controls.

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