A study in the Hong Kong Medical Journal reports that epilepsy can be induced by the Chinese tile game of mahjong.
According to experts, epileptic seizures can be provoked by a wide variety of triggers, but one cause increasingly evident to researchers is the playing - or even watching - of mahjong.
The findings were founded on 23 cases of people who had suffered mahjong-induced seizures. The authors from Hong Kong's Queen Mary Hospital say that the best prevention - and cure - is to avoid the game. This study has led to new condition being coined -mahjong epilepsy.
This Chinese tile game, played by four people round a table, can involve gambling and quickly becomes compulsive. The game, which entails a team, is sometimes played in crowded mahjong parlors. It involves the rapid movement of tiles in marathon sessions.
Some of the conclusions are that the syndrome affects far more men than women; that their average age is 54; and that it can hit sufferers anywhere between one to 11 hours into a mahjong game.
The authors emphasize that the attacks were not just caused by sleep deprivation or gambling stress.
Mahjong is said to be cognitively demanding; drawing on memory, fast calculations, concentration, reasoning and sequencing. The distinctive design of mahjong tiles, and the sound of the tiles crashing onto the table, could also contribute to the syndrome, say the researchers.
In their conclusion, the authors call for more studies into the subject and warn that the only way to avoid mahjong epilepsy is to avoid mahjong.