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Author Topic: Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?  (Read 11343 times)

Offline John Chapman

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?

I think I've heard this called a 'photic sneeze', some sort of sneeze reflex related to bright light. Does anyone have any idea why stimulating the eye/retina/optic nerve (or whatever) should produce the desire to sneeze. The sneeze feels like it is emanating from deep behind the nasal passages, almost in the throat.


 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #1 on: 16/02/2009 03:38:22 »
Do you notice that when you yawn you hearing gets worse? Or is it just me :)?
 

Offline John Chapman

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #2 on: 16/02/2009 10:29:29 »
No. But I hear a rumbling which I have always assumed is the sound of my masseter muscles in tension, although I don't hear it if I clench my teeth. Perhaps it is the masseter's antagonistic muscle(s), whatever that might be. The muscles run close to the ear so I suppose some distortion might be possible, affecting the ear's function. Why don't you post it as a separate question?
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #3 on: 17/02/2009 03:11:18 »
I must say that I have never noticed what you call 'photic sneeze'
 

Offline techmind

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #4 on: 17/02/2009 23:28:49 »
Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?

I think I've heard this called a 'photic sneeze', some sort of sneeze reflex related to bright light. Does anyone have any idea why stimulating the eye/retina/optic nerve (or whatever) should produce the desire to sneeze. The sneeze feels like it is emanating from deep behind the nasal passages, almost in the throat.


This is well known, but I believe it only affects one in five or one in ten people or something like that. My brother has a strong 'photic sneeze' reaction (if that's what it's called), but neither I nor my parents have the same experience.

I'm not familiar with *why* it should happen (the mechanism if you like). Surely Wikipedia or Google will help?
 

Offline techmind

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #5 on: 17/02/2009 23:36:16 »
Do you notice that when you yawn you hearing gets worse? Or is it just me :)?

All sorts of weird things can happen with ears, but the most likely explanation is that the yawn temporarily changes the pressure in the eustation (I know that's spelt wrong!) tube - and any pressure-deviation from ambient will cause a (temporary) reduction in hearing sensitivity while it persists.
It's not clear from your question whether the hearing-deterioration is only *during* the yawn, or whether it persists for some minutes afterwards. Again depending on your personal 'plumbing', any pressure-change may get locked in and take a while to re-equilibrate.


In general if one has a detailed audiology examination they may do a typanogram where they measure the compliance (movement with sound) of your ear drum as a function of pressure -both positive and negative- relative to ambient. They do this by playing a continuous 1kHz tone (of constant amplitude) while changing the external pressure in the ear canal - you can hear the volume changing as the pressure changes. Cool! The eardrum shows greatest compliance when the pressures are equal. Given that the outside (test) pressure is known, they can thus measure the pressure inside your ear (in the eust...whatever tube).

If the pressure inside the ear is far from ambient, they might do some further examinations to find out why...
If the compliance doesn't change with pressure and is fairly high then you'd probably have a hole in the eardrum...
Conversely if the compliance is uniformly low then maybe something is obstructing the motion of the eardrum such as fluid in the middle ear. Hopefully they'd have checked for earwax outside the ear drum before dong the test  ::)
« Last Edit: 17/02/2009 23:42:40 by techmind »
 

Offline graham.d

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #6 on: 18/02/2009 12:53:52 »
A friend of mine has the photic sneeze problem. He told me that it is to do with an accident of nature that the optic nerve runs close to the nerve that stimulates sneezing so that, in some people, they can cross communicate. There is this on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photic_sneeze_reflex
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Offline Karen W.

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #8 on: 21/03/2009 09:18:39 »
Do you notice that when you yawn you hearing gets worse? Or is it just me :)?

First of all The suction of air changes the pressure inside against t eardrum making my ear pressure rise decrease and pop usually... and
I think that is common I believe and I am not an expert but when one drops he jaw down the hinged area blocks the Eustachian tubes a tad and the sound from the suction of air from deep in the lungs makes aaashhhhhhhooooo noise that passes the tubes ad blows out the nose and mouth....making the yawn noise that fills the tubes and ear canal making outside noises seem to temperarally quiet down......... the sound in your own ear so close...muffling other sounds...
« Last Edit: 22/03/2009 08:37:50 by Karen W. »
 

Offline John Chapman

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #9 on: 21/03/2009 09:55:36 »
Hi Chem

Bugger. Every time I ask an interesting question someone's already asked it. Actually, I didn't realise this was at all controversial. I assumed everyone experienced this.

MartinH from your thread said some interesting things:



This is a common reaction.  Those who have photic sneezing often think everyone has it - perhaps because it tends to run in families, and those who don't can't believe it exists !

There would seem to be several types of photic sneezers.  The most common is probably those people who use a source of light to bring out a sneeze that is already there, but 'won't come'. Another - and probably less numerous group - is formed by those who sneeze because they look into bright light. These could be further divided into those who experience this only on odd occasions and those who experience it regularly.

Martin

That describes me perfectly. I assumed everyone does this and certainly my family members experience it. And I recognise perfectly what he says about looking at the sun to 'bring out' a sneeze that's on the edge of coming but just won't happen.
 
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #10 on: 21/03/2009 10:03:48 »
Well know you know. :)

Are you happy and satisfied now?
 

Offline John Chapman

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #11 on: 21/03/2009 10:08:41 »
Always happy. Never satisfied. Just ask my wife! ;)
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #12 on: 21/03/2009 10:12:46 »
Hmmm...I see....

 

Offline Karen W.

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #13 on: 22/03/2009 08:41:33 »
Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?

I think I've heard this called a 'photic sneeze', some sort of sneeze reflex related to bright light. Does anyone have any idea why stimulating the eye/retina/optic nerve (or whatever) should produce the desire to sneeze. The sneeze feels like it is emanating from deep behind the nasal passages, almost in the throat.


I am in that group that if the sun hits my nose and eyes just right ...brings out a sneeze and also can look at a light florescent usually at the right angle to get a sneeze out that is stuck so to speak... I cannot however just look at a light to make myself sneeze.. The sneeze has to already be there for a regular light to effect it.

Now a sneeze from the sun is different yet, as it happens suddenly as the sun hits my nose and it doesn't happen with any warning like a stuck sneeze....

So a stuck one can be relieved with the light but usually not brought on with a light.. ya see?

« Last Edit: 22/03/2009 08:44:46 by Karen W. »
 

Offline 112inky

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #14 on: 24/03/2009 12:55:29 »
Is it so? Does bright light causes sneezing? I have never experienced this..and this sounds strange to me...
 

Offline dlorde

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #15 on: 24/03/2009 15:00:14 »
There are all kinds of nerve cross-talk effects. I get a very annoying effect that sometimes gives me hiccups when the left-hand lower edge of my jaw is stimulated, e.g. by face washing, or shaving. I guess the facial nerves from that area run close to the nerves controlling the diaphragm, and when conditions are right, cross-talk triggers the reflex. D'oh!
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #16 on: 25/03/2009 04:09:28 »
I've just noticed this today!
 

Offline Karen W.

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #17 on: 25/03/2009 06:52:26 »
Is it so? Does bright light causes sneezing? I have never experienced this..and this sounds strange to me...
Is it so? Does bright light causes sneezing? I have never experienced this..and this sounds strange to me...

Well it has happened to me.. but I am no expert and I don"t think the light starts THE SNEEZE JUST BRINGS ONE THAT IS THERE ALREADY TRYING TO COME OUT... YOU KNOW THE KIND THAT STARTS AND STOPS STARTS AND STOPS..ETC.. THEN LOOK AT THE LIGHT AND THAT USUALLY HELPS DRAW IT OUT ALL THE WAY!
 

Offline John Chapman

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #18 on: 25/03/2009 10:05:45 »
I'll second that. I know exactly where Karen's coming from.

Been there. Done that. Sneezed over the tee-shirt.
 

Offline Karen W.

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #19 on: 26/03/2009 06:10:29 »
LOL.. THe light can be a handy resource when you are going ah ah ah ah ah ahooooh....ah ah ah ah ah  oh..... then look at the light tip your head slightly a certain angle then hold as the sensation increases the sneeze effect then AHHHHHHCHOOOOOOOOO! OHHHHHHH SOOOOOOOO much better! LOL!!!
 

Offline twosheds

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #20 on: 25/12/2009 06:23:07 »
I have no hard proof- 

But looking at light constricts pupils.  Sinus muscles can also constrict, as can airway muscles, and even folicule muscles (goosebumps).  All these have histories of relating to sneezing.  These are all involuntary actions.  sneezes are a constriction of muscles to facilitate a forceful expulsion from the airway. 

After significant research (I am a biomedical engineer/scientist), and many discussions with neurology professionals, I have found that the interconnection of nerve impulses of similar systems in people are greatly varied.  This may be a genetic disposition towards neural interconnection- with leads to beneficial mutations as neural interconnection is the basis of thebrain and intelligence in general. 

So if you get goosebumps when you sneeze, or sneeze from bright light, count yourself lucky- you may have a pre-disposition to a genetically superior neural design.

What's more, it can be fun and amusing.  People with synesthesia- they mix senses, such as 'feeling' sound or 'tasting' colors, universally report a rich sensory life and there have been no cases of people regretting same.  No cases.  That's impressive.  It must be like a predictable, mild acid trip- something enjoyable for most people who try it.  intriguiging enough to amuse and get you thinking, not enough to be detrimental. 

This is what is meant by 'expansion' in the term 'mind expanding' drugs.  If done responsibly, they can be just that.  And if you have a predisposition to this, even if it is not 'mind expanding' as in synesthesia, you have a predisposition to greater neural connection than others.  Good for you, enjoy the sneezes, think about the way they feel, and you just might gain some kind of new cognitive connection from it. 

 

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Why might looking at a bright light cause a person to sneeze?
« Reply #20 on: 25/12/2009 06:23:07 »

 

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