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Dostoevsky’s epilepsy induced by television
  1. Instituut voor Epilepsiebestrijding, Meer en Bosch, De Cruquiushoeve, Postbus 21 2100 AA, Heemstede, The Netherlands

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    I refer to the letter written by Cabrera-Valdiviaet al 1 in which they describe a 25 year old woman with “ecstatic epilepsy” evoked by sitting near the television. This compulsive pleasure seeking behaviour, which is called self induced epilepsy, is often described in patients who are photosensitive and television sensitive.

    The first cases of self induced television epilepsy were described by Andermann2 in 1971 and by Jeavons and Harding3 in 1975. Some 150 self inducing patients are described in the literature between 1932 and 1995. Two thirds of these patients are females, which is according to the sex distribution in photosensitive patients in general. The onset of the self inducing behaviour is at a mean of 6 years of age (range 1-15). Treatment is difficult as many do not want to get rid of this phenomenon.4 Over the past 15 years some 50 self inducing patients have been investigated in the Epilepsy Centre, Meer and Bosch, Heemstede, The Netherlands.

    One of these patients, who had a history similar to the 25 year old woman was described in 1989.5 This female was compulsively attracted to the television set and to a fluorescent lamp, sunlight, and venetian blinds since childhood. She was often found with her nose pressed up against the television set. Sometimes her head was nodding and she seemed to be in a trance. At the age of 17 she now admits to self induction only if she is upset. In normal circumstances she feels too ashamed to use this manner of self induction.

    It is very likely that the Spanish woman, as described in this letter, is photosensitive. There is no mention of a negative response to photic stimulation. Furthermore, it can well be that a false negative response is found as it is of the utmost importance to perform photic stimulation with an appropriate stimulator and to stimulate at different eye conditions. No television sensitive patients have been seen or described who are not photosensitive or pattern sensitive as well.


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