TV Host's Voice Triggers Epileptic Seizures in Woman, Doctor Says
Jul. 10, 1991
NEW YORK (AP) _ A neurologist reports in a prestigious medical journal that a woman got epileptic seizures by hearing the voice of ''Entertainment Tonight'' co-host Mary Hart.
Symptoms included an upset feeling in the pit of her stomach, a sense of pressure in her head and mental confusion, said Dr. Venkat Ramani, who reported the case in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
''It was very dramatic,'' said Ramani, who studied the seizures when the woman heard Hart's voice during laboratory testing. She would rub her stomach, hold her head ''and then she would look confused and far away, the expression in her eyes, she looked like she was far away and out of it.''
The testing confirmed that Hart's voice triggered the abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that mark an epileptic seizure, said Ramani, a professor of neurology at the Albany Medical College.
In an interview, he said he did not know why Hart's voice triggered the seizures, which lasted 30 seconds to a minute or two.
''I don't think it's psychological. Primarily it's a neurological, or brain-related event,'' he said.
The unidentified woman had thought Hart's voice set off her seizures, but ''even her own family members were skeptical,'' Ramani said. With the laboratory confirmation, ''she was very relieved,'' he said.
She has not had any major seizures of this type since she stopped watching the syndicated TV show, he said.
It was not clear whether the woman had experienced such seizures before she started hearing Hart, he said.
An epilepsy expert urged that Hart not be blamed. ''It's the pitch and quality of the voice as a sound, rather than likely what she's actually saying,'' said Dr. Marc Dichter of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.
Susan Bluttman, a spokeswoman for ''Entertainment Tonight'' producer Paramount Domestic Television, called the report ''a serious medical matter.''
''All we know is what we read in the New England Journal,'' she said.