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Full Moon


The Full Moon has been blamed for many things, most often in error. And now another myth has apparently been cleared. Researchers at the University of South Florida report that the gravitational tug exerted during a Full Moon does not influence the frequency of epileptic seizures.

"Contrary to the myth, epileptic seizures are not more common during a Full Moon," said Selim Benbadis, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the university's College of Medicine. "In fact, we found the number of epileptic seizures was lowest during the Full Moon and highest in the Moon's Last Quarter."

The Sun, Earth and Moon line up in space to create a Full Moon. Ocean tides, created by both the Sun and Moon, are higher during a Full Moon (they're higher during the Moon's new phase, too). Even Earth's crust is constantly lifted and shifted by these tidal forces.

Supposed effects on humans and animals rarely if ever bear out in serious research.

Yet patients were claiming their seizures were triggered or worsened by the Full Moon, Benbadis said, and "even some health care professionals believe this, but it's never been scientifically tested."

So Benbadis and his colleagues analyzed 770 seizures recorded over three years at Tampa General Hospital, sorting them into epileptic seizures and other types. Of the epileptic seizures, 152 occurred during the Moon's Last Quarter and 94 when Earth's natural satellite was full. Another type of seizure, called psychogenic nonepileptic, increased slightly -- but not significantly -- during the Full Moon.

The study was announced yesterday and will be published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.

Other studies comparing the lunar phases to births, deaths, suicides and psychiatric hospital admissions have similarly found little or no connection. A study of dog behavior in 2001 yielded mixed results. Yet the history of epilepsy is not all medical. Its seizures were once pinned on witchcraft and possession by demons, Benbadis notes. Myths die hard.

"Some people still seem to like poetic, mysterious and irrational explanations for puzzling diseases like epilepsy," he said.


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