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September 1983

A Case of Being Scared to Death

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Neurology (Dr Schraeder) and Medicine (Drs Pontzer and Engel), Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(9):1793-1794. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350090175031

• A 21-year-old student had generalized tonic-clonic seizures induced by the mental image of human pain. One ictal event occurred while he was listening to a description of suffering, as read from Fox's Book of Martyrs. While again listening to the offending passage during EEG and ECG monitoring, he had 25 s of asystole terminating in electrocerebral silence and a generalized tonic, tonic-clonic seizure. A 24-hour ambulatory monitor recorded episodes of progressive sinus bradycardia concomitant with PR-interval prolongation and Wenckebach atrioventricular block. Sinoatrial conduction times and sinus node recovery times were normal on atrial pacing. Since implantation of a permanent pacemaker, he has been asymptomatic. This patient demonstrates the advantages of reproducing the circumstances associated with an unexplained loss of consciousness while monitoring the EEG and ECG.

(Arch Intern Med 1983;143:1793-1794)