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Keywords:

  • Musicogenic;
  • Therapy;
  • Carbamazepine;
  • Temporal lobectomy

Summary

The effect of music on patients with epileptic seizures is complex and at present poorly understood. Clinical studies suggest that the processing of music within the human brain involves numerous cortical areas, extending beyond Heschl’s gyrus and working within connected networks. These networks could be recruited during a seizure manifesting as musical phenomena. Similarly, if certain areas within the network are hyperexcitable, then there is a potential that particular sounds or certain music could act as epileptogenic triggers. This occurs in the case of musicogenic epilepsy, whereby seizures are triggered by music. Although it appears that this condition is rare, the exact prevalence is unknown, as often patients do not implicate music as an epileptogenic trigger and routine electroencephalography does not use sound in seizure provocation. Music therapy for refractory epilepsy remains controversial, and further research is needed to explore the potential anticonvulsant role of music. Dopaminergic system modulation and the ambivalent action of cognitive and sensory input in ictogenesis may provide possible theories for the dichotomous proconvulsant and anticonvulsant role of music in epilepsy. The effect of antiepileptic drugs and surgery on musicality should not be underestimated. Altered pitch perception in relation to carbamazepine is rare, but health care professionals should discuss this risk or consider alternative medication particularly if the patient is a professional musician or native-born Japanese. Studies observing the effect of epilepsy surgery on musicality suggest a risk with right temporal lobectomy, although the extent of this risk and correlation to size and area of resection need further delineation. This potential risk may bring into question whether tests on musical perception and memory should form part of the preoperative neuropsychological workup for patients embarking on surgery, particularly that of the right temporal lobe.