Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Let there be light! And sneezing!

            I have a sister. Like many people with siblings, I spent my childhood trying to annoy her as much as possible. She did the same to me, and believe me, she could be very annoying. Still is, actually (Hi N! Love you!).
            One of my sister's more annoying things was her stupid chocolate sneezes. Every time she ate chocolate, she'd sneeze. But just the one time. Next bite, no sneeze. But if she ate chocolate again the next day, she'd sneeze again. Once. Everyone thought she was so cute. Look at the little cutie sneeze. Awwww. I thought she was a fraud! What a joke! She sneezes, only for chocolate, and not even every time?? OBVIOUSLY she's faking for attention. And not very well. If she's going to lie, she should at least do it properly. Sneeze every time, you stupid faker.
            So imagine my shock when I was all grown up, started studying the brain, and realized she wasn't faking!

            You win this round sister...
            Actually there’re a lot of random things which cause sneezing. People have reported sneezing after eating mints or grapefruit, or after plucking their eyebrows. It seems to be brought on by strong, sudden physical sensations, like a bold taste, or being poked near the eyeball. The most famous trigger is light. Almost one in every four people sneezes in bright light! For this reason, the phenomenon is called the photic sneeze reflex. (The word “photic” comes from “photon”, which means “light”.)
            So why do some people sneeze in bright light? Or after eating chocolate?
Achoo!
            Imagine your brain as a dense network of wires. The wires connect all the different bits of your brain that need to talk to each other. For example, there’s wires between the part of the brain that smells things and the part of your brain that makes you feel hungry, so that when you smell something tasty, you feel hungry. But if the wires aren’t connected quite right, weird things can happen. In light-induced sneezing, scientists think the connection between the visual section of the brain and the part that controls chewing and swallowing is stronger than it should be. When someone sees a sudden, bright light, this connection “overloads”, and that causes a tickling sensation that leads to sneezing. I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that a similar thing is happening when my sister eats chocolate, only it involves the taste centers of the brain instead of the visual centers. It’s not dangerous, just interesting.
            There’s some evidence that the photic sneeze reflex is hereditary, which means that parents pass it on to their children. For this reason, it has been nicknamed the ACHOO reflex, for “Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Opthalmic Outburst”. Hehehe. This is what scientists do when they’re bored in the labs – come up with ridiculous acronyms for silly things. I don’t know if chocolate sneezing is hereditary, but my sister is the only person in my whole family who does it. My guess is “no”, but that's based on the extremely un-scientific sample size of one. I’d need to talk to other chocolate sneezers to be sure.
            After that first bout of sneezing, the person can go up to 24 hours without sneezing again. You can flip the lights off and on as much as you want, it won’t make them sneeze. My sister could eat ten chocolate bars in ten hours, but she would only sneeze after the first bite.
            So you see? She never was faking. But she was still pretty annoying.

Achoo!

29 comments:

  1. I can tell you this happens to me and it is annoying. Whenever I eat chocolate I sneeze. My sister also does the same thing. Other than the two of us I don't know if anyone else in my family does. I am happy to know I am not nuts or allergic to chocolate.

    Thanks,
    Janet

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi! This is so me!! Actually I've just eaten one and I sneezed for two times. All this time I really thought this was a kind of allergy so I decided to google it to finally enlighten myself. Looks like I'm that 'one out of the four'. I also sneeze after sudden exposure of sunlight (but not every time). My sister does the same too (with chocolates, not sure with sunlight). Thanks for sharing this! :D

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do it too but not all chocolate but Reese Cups are a guarantee!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sunshine, mints and chocolate all individually make mesneeze. But offer me a chocolate coated mint on a sunny day and I guess you'll need to stand well back :0) Same with my Grandma and one of my sons. Thank you very much for the explanation. I don't feel like such a freak now ;0)

    ReplyDelete
  5. My 11-year-old daughter sneezes every time she takes the first bite of chocolate. It cracks us all up. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Guy on Yahoo saying it's the antioxidants. The peculiar fact that it only happens once makes me think otherwise. Everyone i share this tic with laughs. No other family with it, and other stimuli have no effect. Smelling chocolate might do it. Higher cacao pct also makes the effect more likely.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is me but I only sneeze in the sunshine!!! I inherited it from my dad who got it from his dad and so on. But the weird thing is that my dad and his dad sneeze when eating mint and sunshine unlike me as I only do this at sudden brightness. Thank you for writing this piece of writing! It makes me feel awesome!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the explanation. I read somewhere else that it was the antioxidants in the dark chocolate that was doing it ( http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101103180528AAIPmSC ) But it doesn't explain the Mint.
    Don't know for sure if it is hereditary or not because my parents don't have this. However, my daughter does (chocolate only). Mint, dark chocolate and sunshine for me.
    We don't mind it, it's part of our wicked side ;-p

    ReplyDelete
  9. I sneeze in sunlight--about 2-3 times, but only if exposed to it suddenly like others have mentioned. I also sneeze after the first bite of dark chocolate a lot of times. I've also started sneezing after a sip of a soft drink (which is extremely rare because I don't drink them unless I sip someone else's if I'm thirsty), so I thought this was maybe a caffeine thing. I guess perhaps it's the visual aspect of the sun, the flavor of the chocolate and maybe the "feel" of the carbonation? I've told people for years that I have "super senses" and it looks like I'm right according to this article about having stronger brain connections!

    I also saw the article about the antioxidants, but I don't sneeze when I eat other foods like berries or beans, which are some of the highest in natural antioxidants, so that doesn't seem to be consistent.

    This has never caused any problems for me, but I was just interested to see if there was an explanation. Funny that others have the same "weird" reaction to these things.

    ReplyDelete
  10. it's weird, I sneeze when I eat chocolate. I'll eat a piece of dark(60%+) chocolate and sneeze but if I eat another piece within 2 minutes I won't sneeze, if I wait more than 2 minutes I'll sneeze. Never happens with milk or white chocolate though.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Chocolate has been making me sneeze for as long as I can remember but unlike your sister I will sneeze every time I eat it. The darker the chocolate, the more I sneeze. Some other things like red wine, mints, and strong cheeses do it to me as well but they aren't as much of a gaurantee as chocolate is. I know a few sun sneezers but I haven't met anyone else who shares my chocolate reaction and definitely not anyone in my family.

    ReplyDelete
  12. As above, but for me it's only with dark chocolate. I don't seem to have this reflex with any other substance or sensory experience at all - not sunshine, wine, milk chocolate or cheese. But the darker the chocolate (higher percentage of cocoa solids), the more forceful the sneeze! Like your sister, I'm the only one in the family with this amusing affliction. My parents are both fans of dark chocolate, but never sneeze. If it isn't hereditary, then perhaps it's something that arises during foetal development.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This happens with me also. Only It has only started happening within the last 3 or 4 years, (I am 58) Any reason any1 knows about that it is new in my life?

    ReplyDelete
  14. I usually sneeze after eating dark chocolate, it's very similar to your sisters reaction, because it's only one sneeze and after that its okay. My mother told me that she had this same thing when she was younger, but now it's disappeared.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I do this with chocolate and strong mints. Usually the chocolate has to be pretty strong or dark. Its not EVERY time, and sometimes its not just once. When I was little my mom told me it was "all in my head". So its good to see that it isn't just in my head, and that there's not an allergy! :P

    ReplyDelete
  16. I sneeze in sunlight and when I eat dark chocolate. My brother and son also sneeze in sunlight, but they don't react to dark chocolate. Typically, I only sneeze once or twice, and then I'm done. If I wait awhile and then eat chocolate again, I'll sneeze once or twice again. Going out into bright sunlight usually elicits one or two quick sneezes, then I'm done. I always thought the chocolate thing was some kind of allergy, though it seemed weird that the sneezing didn't continue while I was eating more chocolate. Thanks for the article!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I just Googled this because recently I've started eating organic dark chocolate and sneezing every time I take my first bite. I never used to. This is a brand new weird thing. I'm so glad I'm not alone, though, and that it's not an allergy. I love dark chocolate so much I can handle a few sneezes. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. I sneeze with strong light. As all my sisters and mother do it too, I thought it was everybody who can do it. My hubby told me that he doesn't and I am the first person he knows and that is weird for him. When I have a sneeze stuck, I "go to the light" :-D

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have both photic (sunlight only, bright lightbulbs don't affect me) and chocolate sneezes. I'm the only person in my family that I know of who gets chocolate sneezes. It's annoying, but I'm not desperately fond of chocolate anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Glad to see I`m not the only one. I also have 1 or 2 sneezes after a bite of chocolate.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This began happening to me about 4 years ago. Whenever I open a container of cocoa powder or eat a piece of chocolate, I sneeze about 2 or 3 times and then it stops. It used to happen to me when I grind coffee and remove the lid, but then it stopped(3 years ago) and I'm left with this sneezing reaction to chocolate. I remember several times when I sneezed in bright light when I was a kid, but this never happened during the past(at least) 12 years.

    Can changes in the rewiring of the neural network cause changes like these? Because around 8 years ago, I began practicing the piano, guitar, and violin. My thinking patterns and visualization changed and improved. I started thinking very deeply about mathematical and programming problems, and I developed new thinking patterns and my perception of most things have changed.

    It sounds kind of doubtful that this was the cause, but who knows. It may also be possible that something else caused the rewiring and then it led to these changes I noticed in my thinking patterns.

    ReplyDelete
  22. chocolate gets me every time... higher cacao % = more sneezes. my little sister is the same way, but our parents seem unaffected.

    Light, mint, and wine do not make me sneeze, but tonic water does sometimes (strange, i know).

    Glad to know there are others out there

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have Photic Sneeze Reflex, and I'm the only one in my family I know has it. Once, I sneezed 10 times in a row.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I also sneeze just once whenever I eat chocolate! I had just assumed it was some strange kind of allergy and had never bothered to look it up before. Weird!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I sneeze usually once in response to bright sunlight, high cacao percentage chocolate, and coffee. And sometimes when I get a really full stomach. It happens most the time with coffee, but often not on the first sip, usually it takes a while, like 1/2 a glass before I sneeze, which I have always thought was strange. Chocolate is usually after the first bite or two.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'm happy I'm not the only one sneezing for dark chocolate! I also sneeze whith grapefruit, red wine, tonic water and some other bitter things. Not very often also light makes me sneez, like when a sun beam suddenly hits me. :) I think my grandmother had this "sneezing problem" too, because I remember her sneezing after drinking red wine.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Im also sneezeing from 60% and up... also mint. Ive done this for many years... now to the strange thing. Im now able to eat without sneezing. Today and yesterday i was eating 81% and im not sneezing. Before i did it everytime... so what have i done the last to weeks. Its three things that is different from before. Im now eating lchf "high fat food" and no sugar. I started eating quality vitamins and omega3. I also started stretching my back alot... i have scoliosis... so strange...

    ReplyDelete
  28. Im also sneezeing from 60% and up... also mint. Ive done this for many years... now to the strange thing. Im now able to eat without sneezing. Today and yesterday i was eating 81% and im not sneezing. Before i did it everytime... so what have i done the last to weeks. Its three things that is different from before. Im now eating lchf "high fat food" and no sugar. I started eating quality vitamins and omega3. I also started stretching my back alot... i have scoliosis... so strange...

    ReplyDelete