A 25-year-old german student had a seizure attack when solving a sudoku puzzle. He had survived an avalanche during a ski trip weeks before, and after being deprived of oxygen for 15 minutes, he ended up in the hospital.

Due to the lack of proper oxygen supply, called hypoxia, the physical education student developed myoclonus, a condition that shows sudden, involuntary jerking of a muscle or group of muscles. This affected the muscles in his mouth and both legs when he tried to talk and walk, but his arms didn’t suffer it.

In a new report published in JAMA Neurology, a team of doctors discuss one of their more puzzling cases: a man who had a seizure when he tried to solve Sudoku. Credit: Sudoku Room

While being in the hospital, the student tried to solve a sudoku puzzle, when he started to have clonic seizures on his left arm —not injured in the accident. These seizures cause repeated jerking of the muscles. As soon as he stopped on solving the puzzle, the seizures did not continue.

Doctors believe that the patient created a three-dimensional image of the sudoku puzzle in his brain, a task he wasn’t ready to perform after being exposed to hypoxia, causing the seizures. Dr. Berend Feddersen, one of the study’s author, explained that this oxygen deprivation caused diffuse and widespread damage on the patient.

“Similar seizures could be elicited by other visual-spatial tasks like sorting random numbers in an ascending order, but not by reading, writing or calculating alone,” researchers wrote on their paper, published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Experts explain that brain cells are connected by fibers, like a network system. Some centers deal with mathematical issues, as other works with language, meaning that some of this fibers were damaged after the accident.

Dr. Elson So, an epilepsy specialist from the Mayo Clinic, explained that some of this fibers have specific functions, such as activating or deactivating processes.

“Every complex system needs an activating and deactivating systems. Everything in moderation,” So stated, according to CBS News.

The possible damage of these deactivators, that failed to moderate the brain activity and excitation for a mathematical exercise like a puzzle, caused what the researchers call a “reflex epilepsy.”

Doctors announced that giving up the sudoku habit was enough for the patient to stop the seizures, saying he was lucky that the trigger was the puzzle and not a daily life activity.

Source: JAMA Neurology