Sudden unexpected death in epileptics following sudden, intense, increases in geomagnetic activity: Prevalence of effect and potential mechanisms

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Persinger MA and Psych C (1995) Sudden unexpected death in epileptics following sudden, intense, increases in geomagnetic activity: Prevalence of effect and potential mechanisms. Int J Biometeorol 38:4 180–7.

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Abstract: Abrupt, intense increases in global geomagnetic activity during the local night may precipitate a significant proportion of sudden unexpected (or unexplained) deaths (SUD) in epileptics. Over a 2-year period SUD in healthy chronic epileptic rats occurred when the average daily geomagnetic activity exceeded 50 nT (nanoTesla) and suddenly began during local night. Other experiments demonstrated that epileptic rats displayed more spontaneous seizures per night if there had been sudden increases in geomagnetic activity. Analyses of previously published data indicated that the number of SUDs/month in a population of human epileptics was positively associated with the number of days/month when the average geomagnetic activity exceeded 50 nT. The results support the hypothesis that suppression of the nocturnal concentrations of the endogenous anticonvulsant melatonin by sudden increases in geomagnetic activity may encourage fatal cardiac arrhythmias by uncoupling the insular/amygdaloid-paraventricular hypothalamic-solitary nucleus pathways.

Keywords: Geomagnetic activity, Chronic epilepsy, Sudden unexpected death, Arrhytmia, Melatonin

Context

  • Animal study in rat that found greater incidence of sudden death on nights with higher and more rapid-onset geomagnetic activity. Numbers of spontaneous seizures per night also correlated with magnetic activity. The authors discuss these correlations in the context of melatonin and the functional connectivity of the insula, paraventricular nucleus, and solitary nucleus. The first author returned to the topic in Persinger et al.

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