Nearly 1 in 5 startled by loud, non-existent noises
Washington State University researchers have found that an unexpectedly high percentage of young people experience "exploding head syndrome," a psychological phenomenon in which they are awakened by abrupt loud noises, even the sensation of an explosion in their head.
Brian Sharpless, a Washington State University assistant professor and director of the university psychology clinic, found that nearly one in five -- 18 percent -- of college students interviewed said they had experienced it at least once. It was so bad for some that it significantly impacted their lives, he said. "Unfortunately for this minority of individuals, no well-articulated or empirically supported treatments are available, and very few clinicians or researchers assess for it," he said.
The study also found that more than one-third of those who had exploding head syndrome also experienced isolated sleep paralysis, a frightening experience in which one cannot move or speak when waking up. People with this condition will literally dream with their eyes wide open.
The study is the largest of its kind, with 211 undergraduate students interviewed by psychologists or graduate students trained in recognizing the symptoms of exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis. The results appear online in the Journal of Sleep Research. Based on smaller, less rigorous studies, some researchers have hypothesized that exploding head syndrome is a rare condition found mostly in people older than 50.
"I didn't believe the clinical lore that it would only occur in people in their 50s," said Sharpless. "That didn't make a lot of biological sense to me." He started to think exploding head syndrome was more widespread last year when he reviewed the scientific literature on the disorder for the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews. In that report he concluded the disorder was a largely overlooked phenomenon that warranted a deeper look. The disorder tends to come as one is falling asleep. Researchers suspect it stems from problems with the brain shutting down. When the brain goes to sleep, it's like a computer shutting down, with motor, auditory and visual neurons turning off in stages. But instead of shutting down properly, the auditory neurons are thought to fire all at once, Sharpless said.
"That's why you get these crazy-loud noises that you can't explain, and they're not actual noises in your environment," he said. The same part of the brain, the brainstem's reticular formation, appears to be involved in isolated sleep paralysis as well, which could account for why some people experience both maladies, he said.
They can be extremely frightening. Exploding head syndrome can last just a few seconds but can lead some people to believe that they're having a seizure or a subarachnoid hemorrhage, said Sharpless. "Some people have worked these scary experiences into conspiracy theories and mistakenly believe the episodes are caused by some sort of directed-energy weapon," he said.
In fact, both exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis have been misinterpreted as unnatural events. The waking dreams of sleep paralysis can make for convincing hallucinations, which might account for why some people in the Middle Ages would be convinced they saw demons or witches. "In 21st century America, you have aliens," said Sharpless. "For this scary noise you hear at night when there's nothing going on in your environment, well, it might be the government messing with you."
Some people are so put off by the experience that they don't even tell their spouse, he said. "They may think they're going crazy and they don't know that a good chunk of the population has had the exact same thing," he said. Neither disorder has a well-established treatment yet, though researchers have tried different drugs that may be promising, said Sharpless, co-author of the upcoming book, "Sleep Paralysis: Historical, Psychological, and Medical Perspectives." "One of the drugs they gave for exploding head syndrome actually didn't make the noises go away," he said. "It just turned the volume down." But many people are at least relieved to get a diagnosis and learn that they aren't alone. "There's the possibility that just being able to recognize it and not be afraid of it can make it better," Sharpless said.
Brian Sharpless | EurekAlert!
Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences