Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

WSU researchers find 'exploding head syndrome' more common in young people than thought

30.03.2015

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!

Further reports about: Middle Ages Sharpless WSU drugs individuals neurons paralysis phenomenon significantly

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Norovirus evades immune system by hiding out in rare gut cells
12.10.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

nachricht Flexible sensors can detect movement in GI tract
11.10.2017 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters

17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>