Solving a Sudoku puzzle can be so satisfying. It might only take 5 minutes to complete, if it’s an easy one, but there’s something about having each number from 1 to 9 fit neatly in the exact place each belongs, that brings a sense of accomplishment to the solver and a brief moment of order to an otherwise senseless and crazy world.
But what if solving the satisfying puzzles gave you seizures?
For one unnamed man living in Germany, every time he tried to finish a Sudoku puzzle he suffered from what doctors call “clonic seizures,” seizures that caused fast contractions of the muscles in his left arm. When he quit trying to solve the puzzle, the seizures stopped.
Why the “puzzling” affect? As a 25-year old student on a skiing trip, the man was buried by an avalanche and deprived of oxygen for 15 minutes. Doctors believe that the deprivation caused some brain damage, resulting in the Sudoku afffect, involuntary twitching of the muscles around the man’s mouth when speaking, and twitching of his legs when he attempted to walk, according to a CTV news report.
Interestingly, the man never had any problems while calculating numbers or reading or writing, but he did experience similar seizures when he tried to complete other visual-spatial tasks such as sorting random numbers in ascending order.
The man hasn’t tried to solve one of the Japanese number puzzles in five years, and his visual-spatial seizures seem to have gone away.
But it’s too bad-the whole dilemma, in general. If the puzzles hadn’t been such a problem, whenever going for further medical treatment, the man could have continued to enjoy all the benefits Sudoku can bring to those with a healthy brain. And they can be many.
According to Om Johari, a retired IIT scientist who presented the merits of Sudoku to a group gathered at the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva, in 2009, Sudoku can help people in many ways, particularly those confined to a hospital bed.
Sudoku teaches patience, relieves loneliness and reduces stress, Johari believes. “You do Sudoku, and you forget arthritis pain. You forget you are confined to a bed. You forget the daily stresses of life. Sudoku lets us put everything else away for those minutes we spend on the puzzle. (The puzzles) are particularly great when one is confined to bed, at home or at the hospital. All you need is a puzzle and a sharp pencil with a good eraser.”
Cancer patient Ann Preuss of West Chicago, who was at Johari’s presentatio,n explained why she too liked the game.
“When I was in chemo and taking treatments, Sudoku seemed like the one thing that could make me focus,” she said. “It helped me a lot in that way.”
Hopefully the man in the skiing accident can find similar solace in another activity. Maybe crossword puzzles will do it-or meditation with some good old-fashioned knitting.