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Gene linked to sound auras identified

28 January, 2002

The gene that causes a form of epilepsy that causes patients to hear 'sound hallucinations' before their seizures has been identified.

Research published in the journal Nature Genetics follows a study in which 2,000 families with epilepsy were studied to attempt to determine which forms of epilepsy were most likely to have a genetic factor.

Autosomal-Dominant Partial Epilepsy with Auditory Features (ADPEAF) is an extremely rare variant of epilepsy that usually develops between the ages of 8 and 25. People with epilepsy don't commonly report auditory hallucinations or sound distortions.

Ruth Ottman, from Columbia University in New York, located one family with 11 members with epilepsy, all of whom shared the same genetic marker. After examining the family's medical history, more than half had auditory hallucinations or sound distortions as a prelude to their seizures.

"Some people hear, for example, the sound of helicopters or the sound of a machine, or a sound growing louder, or a whooshing sound or a thumping sound", Ottman said.

As in most forms of epilepsy, most people with ADPEAF have their seizures controlled by medication.