Photic Sneezers

I am a photic sneezer and so is my mother, 1 in 4 people are like us because they sneeze when exposed to bright light. Langer, Beeli, and Jancke (2010) published what they say is the first scientific examination of photic sneezers in the open-access peer-reviewed journal, Public Library of Science (PLoS).

The authors used electroencephalogram (EEG) to compare photic sneezers’ brain activity to a control group. They found

“enhanced excitability of the visual cortex (mainly in the cuneus) to visual stimuli in ‘photic sneezers’ compared with control subjects,” and “a stronger prickling sensation in the nose of photic sneezers was found to be associated with activation in the insula and stronger activation in the secondary somatosensory cortex.”

A photic sneeze has been assumed to be a reflex, however with this new evidence showing cortical activation, this type of sneezing cannot be categorized as a ‘classical reflex,’ or one that originates in the brain stem or spinal cord.

-Posted by Tyler

  1. PLoS is essentially a pay to publish journal, which is less than ideal, however the organization is non-profit and has a respectable impact factor.

    I’m really not sure how the scientific community feels about PLoS, so if you’ve got an opinion on this journal or open access science distribution, please share!

  2. That’s interesting. When my husband needs to sneeze, he looks up at a light to help trigger his sneeze. I wonder if this means he is a photic sneezer? I always thought he was just strange!

  3. A discussion of the PLoS publication is occurring over at Barking up the Wrong Tree if you are interested.

    • Tim
    • April 11th, 2010

    Interesting! I’m a photic sneezer as well and never is it a single sneeze. It’s always two – and sometimes (but rarely) it’s three.

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