While there are those who love playing the famous numbers game Sudoku and those who can’t stand it, there’s likely only one man who has seizures when he tries to play the game.
Meet the former physical education student who was buried in an avalanche during a holiday ski trip. While trapped beneath the snow, he experienced hypoxia–oxygen deficiency–for what Science Alert reports to have been a “significant” period of time.
As a result of the incident, he now experiences clonic seizures when he plays the “brain game” Sudoku, which researchers believe to be a form of reflex epilepsy triggered by the activity.
Berend Feddersen, a neurologist with the University of Munich in Germany, was quoted by TIME as having explained that when the man “solves Sudoku, one of his strategies is to arrange the numbers in some 3D manner.” As a result of this spatial visualization, Feddersen hypothesizes that the man’s seizures are triggered — a notion which he finds “very interesting” because when he plays the game, he merely employs a relatively simple system of trial and error.
When he solves Sudoku, one of his strategies is to arrange the numbers in some 3D manner (…) That’s very interesting, because when I do Sudoku, I just make trial and error.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to examine the man’s brain, researchers noticed above normal activity in his right central parietal cortex, which aids in navigation as well as spatial sense. Further analysis conducted via diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) revealed that nearly all of the U-fibres, which help regulate inhibition, had been lost from that part of his brain as a result of the oxygen deprivation he had experienced in the avalanche.
The researchers published their findings in the journal JAMA Neurology.
The man has, perhaps unsurprisingly, stopped playing Sudoku. Subsequently, he’s been living free of seizures for more than five years.