- Zoe Fennessy, 26, has an epileptic seizure within seconds of hearing singer
- Has been clinically diagnosed with ‘musicogenic seizures’
- Doctors agree they are triggered by the tone of the pop singer’s voice
- Now has to wear headphones when out shopping in case she hears song
Zoe Fennessy, 26, has an epileptic seizure within seconds of hearing the singer Ne-Yo’s vocals
A mother has undergone surgery to remove part of her brain in a bid to stop crippling seizures which she claims are triggered by the sound of a pop star’s voice
Zoe Fennessy, 26, has an epileptic seizure within seconds of hearing the chart-topping singer Ne-Yo’s vocals.
The seizures make her freeze, vomit and unable to react to the world around her.
The healthcare assistant has to wear earphones whenever she goes shopping just in case the ‘Let’s Go’ singer’s tunes are played in stores.
She has been clinically diagnosed with ‘musicogenic seizures’ which are triggered by the tone of Ne-Yo’s voice.
Surgeons removed part of her left frontal lobe in June in a bid to stop the affliction.
But the surgery was not successful and doctors now fear she may have the condition forever.
Miss Fennessy – who has been unable to work for six months because of her affliction – said: ‘I don’t dislike Ne-Yo or his music, it just dislikes me unfortunately.
‘I’ll be walking around the supermarket doing my food shopping and I have to put my earphones in to listen to my own music just in case it comes on.
‘It’s the same with most shops. I have to walk in with my ear phones in at first just to make sure they don’t have Ne-Yo on.
‘If he ever releases a greatest hits album it’s going to be a nightmare.
‘Whenever I hear the first few beats of the song I have to drop whatever I am doing and run.
‘People might think it is funny – and I can laugh at it myself – but it has taken over my life. It’s ruined my life.’
Miss Fennessy, from Retford, Nottinghamshire, had her first seizure on New Year’s Day in 2006 after a long period of sickness and doctors put it down to tiredness and stress.
But when her seizures increased to six a day, her GP booked her in for a brain test and she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2008.
It wasn’t until she heard Ne-Yo’s first big hit, ‘Give Me Everything’ featuring Pitbull – which topped the charts in May 2011 – that she had her first music-induced seizure.
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Ms Fennessy has been diagnosed with musicogenic seizures. Her medical notes state: ‘We recognised a few musicogenic seizures arising from the right temporal lobe stimulated by songs sung by Ne-Yo’ (pictured)
In June, surgeons removed part of her left frontal lobe to try and stop the seizures. But the surgery was not successful and doctors now fear she may have the condition forever
‘It took me a while to realise that they were being triggered by his songs.
‘It wasn’t until I’d heard it for about the 15th time that it finally twigged what was going on.’
‘The song was really popular and I went to my consultant and I said “I know this sounds extremely bizarre, but every time I hear this song I have a seizure”.
‘He said it was fascinating and that he’d never heard anything like it.
‘I stressed that while it might be fascinating, I was really struggling – the song was everywhere at the time.’
HOW CAN MUSIC TRIGGER SEIZURES
A musicogenic seizure is epilepsy triggered by certain types of music or even specific frequencies of pitch for which the person’s brain has a low threshold or tolerance.
These sounds trigger abnormal activity on the brain.
In some cases, merely thinking of the atmosphere and the emotions associated with a certain stimulus is enough to induce a seizure.
They may also occur during sleep.
Miss Fennessy was referred to Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
There, doctors played Ne-Yo songs and were amazed when they induced a seizure.
Her doctors notes from the time say: ‘We recognised a few musicogenic seizures arising from the right temporal lobe stimulated by songs sung by Ne-Yo.’
Another added: ‘During her admission she was listening to the radio on [her] iPhone when a specific song came on the radio that triggers her fits (Pitbull Ne-Yo – Tonight).
‘She called for assistance at this point and she was noted to be shaking and looking rather anxious and acting a bit confused.
‘The following day we deliberately played the song and exactly the same symptoms arose.’
The music attacks got more difficult to manage as the singer became more popular with every song he released, including top ten hits ‘Let’s Go’ and ‘Turn Around’ in 2012.
The 15 second seizures, which happen in her right temporal lobe, leave her ‘staring blankly’ and after they pass she will vomit, be very thirsty and feel extremely sleepy.
In June this year, Miss Fennessy endured a six-hour long operation to remove a huge chunk of her left temporal lobe where doctors thought all her seizures may originate.
But while the symptoms of her epilepsy have reduced, she still has a fit every time she hears Ne-Yo’s voice.
Ms Fennessy has to wear earphones whenever she goes shopping just in case the ‘Let’s Go’ singer’s tunes are played in stores
She said a recent holiday to Majorca – just after the singer released his song Play Hard with David Guetta – was a ‘nightmare’ with the song playing in every bar.
‘I have had to go up to DJs in places and say ‘look can you not play Ne-Yo’ and they just look at me like I’m an alien,’ said Zoe.
‘[Doctors] are saying it could possibly be something in the tone of his voice, something like that, but it doesn’t happen when I hear Usher, or people like him who have a very similar sound. It is only him, only Ne-Yo.’
‘Our holiday this year to Majorca was a nightmare. Honestly it was like being at a Ne-Yo concert – the song was everywhere.
‘I had to stay in the hotel room for most of the holiday because it got so bad.’