Musicogenic epilepsy is a neurological disorder where epileptic seizures are uncontrollably triggered by music. Gloria Estefan’s Dr Beat is a catchy 80s pop song where she calls for medical assistance because music is irresistibly moving her body, moving her soul and affecting her brain.
Coincidence? I think not.
Doctor, I’ve got this feelin’ deep inside of me, deep inside of me
I just cant control my feet, when I hear the beat
when I hear the beat
Hey doctor, could you give me somethin’ to ease the pain
cause if you dont help me soon gonna lose my brain
gonna go insane
Despite Ms Estefan’s requests, painkillers are unlikely to help with the acute effects of seizure.
First-line treatment is usually a rapid acting benzodiazepine and long-term stabilisation with a common anticonvulsant such as sodium valproate.
While her concerns about her mental health are understandable (people with epilepsy are at a slightly higher risk of developing mental illness), the majority of people with the condition lead full and active lives, so her fear of insanity is largely unfounded.
There are many cases of musicogenic epilepsy in the medical literature but, unfortunately, only a few few are freely available online. One is particularly interesting though and is available as a pdf file.
It’s a 1957 article published in Psychosomatic Medicine that reports three fascinating cases, including a girl who had her seizures triggered by swing music that induced, among other things, hallucinations of a smartly dressed couple.
For those of you wanting something a bit more up-to-date though, YouTube has the a Dr Beat Mylo remix Dr Who video mashup. Same symptoms, new medical staff.