On the curiosity of brain static.
August 12, 2006 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Occasionally, when standing up too quickly, or just for the helluvit my senses get overwhelmed with what I can only call brain static. What the hell, neurology?

When stepping out of a hot shower, when standing up too quickly, when just out walking, and just randomly, this occcurs. My vision is taken over by the stuff you see when you close your eyes too tight. My balance starts to falter, though I can almost always keep standing without needing to sit down again or lean on something. I do not ever recalling sense of smell coming into play during these, but sense of touch is always tingly. The tingles center around the skull. It only lasts fifteen seconds, usually less, sometimes more. Now it hasn't been all that inconvenient so much as fascinatingly odd. But just the other day at a concert it really overwhelmed me. I was at a concert, and slowly I began to feel quite faint. Getting truly tired and wanting to do nothing else but sit. While heading away from my friends, this brain static started to come on full force. The awareness of my surroundings were quickly fading, and if I had not found a seat I expect I would have found the ground. I had a good minute of sitting before I decided that perhaps it was dehydration, and went to drink a few small dixie cups of water. But it still took me at least ten minutes to recover fully and feel normal before returning to the show. It may also be of note that I had not eaten much that day. So ... anybody have ideas what the brain static is and what causes it and what likely triggered it at the concert? Is it blood sugar? Blood pressure? Government mind rays? Something sinister?
posted by TwelveTwo to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have the same thing, I've always attributed it to low blood pressure. I have no idea if that is correct however.
posted by gregschoen at 3:42 PM on August 12, 2006

It sounds to me (quite the layman) like a few varieties of hypotension. The "stand up quickly and almost pass out" one is orthostatic hypotension. The "pass out while standing up for a long time" thing, I don't know the name for, but is very, very common in school gatherings here in Japan. When I was a teacher, some kid (or kids) would pass out at every monthly school principal's lecture. I've gathered (from comedian's routines) that this was not limited to my school, but very common.
posted by Bugbread at 3:46 PM on August 12, 2006

It happens to me sometimes when standing up quickly from a prone position, such as when my alarm goes off first thing in the morning.
posted by rhapsodie at 3:50 PM on August 12, 2006

It's a relatively common phenomenon - a "rush of blood to the head" - but in my NOT PROFESSIONAL opinion you should see a doctor and have them give you a full check up - it happens only rarely to me, not often at all.
posted by muddgirl at 3:53 PM on August 12, 2006

My vision is taken over by the stuff you see when you close your eyes too tight.

Yes, thats what happens when you are about to faint. Have you ever fainted in the past? If you have, you should know this. You need to talk to a doctor about this.
posted by vacapinta at 4:04 PM on August 12, 2006

Nope, I have never fainted. I perhaps was close to doing so at the concert, but that is the closest I've ever been. And regarding doctors, well, I have no excuse except the inconvience of waiting six weeks for an appointment.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:10 PM on August 12, 2006

<slightly related topic>
I remember one time I was up at like 4am, completely sober, just woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

So I stand up, and all of a sudden, I realize that my head is lying in a basket of towels and my pants were around my ankles. My blood pressure must have been really low that night, because I fainted for no reason.

Thank goodness that basket of towels was there, cause I would have woken up with a really bad headache had it not. I always think back at how that would have looked, had someone walked in while I was passed out.
</slightly related topic>
posted by gregschoen at 4:15 PM on August 12, 2006

Ooh, I forgot. I also get brain static when I stretch sometimes.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:20 PM on August 12, 2006

It's a relatively common phenomenon - a "rush of blood to the head"

I think it's caused by blood rushing (sort of) away from the head - it's all pooled in your legs from sitting for a long time, and then when you stand suddenly it needs to catch up. Same thing as when pilots black out from high-G maneuvers.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:27 PM on August 12, 2006

All the time. Once, I got sounds too: "B'doinnggg, yowyowyowyowngggg."
posted by popcassady at 4:28 PM on August 12, 2006

You need to talk to a doctor about this.

No, he doesn't. It's common and harmless.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:31 PM on August 12, 2006

You had your own sound effects? lucky.

--Well, now if this is so common why do I get them so often? (At minimum, once a week.) If it is just blood pressure antics, is there such a thing as sensitivity? Or a way the cardiovascular system could be slow at rebalancing the pressure?
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:32 PM on August 12, 2006

It's just low blood pressure, i have this too. a great way to avoid it is when getting up, do so fairly slowly and make sure your head comes up last. a bit of a hassle but it saves the black-and-white disco party going on in your eyeballs.
posted by alon at 4:36 PM on August 12, 2006

You need to talk to a doctor about this.

No, he doesn't. It's common and harmless.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:31 PM

In one sense I agree. But he seems to be having them frequently. And there may be many underlying causes as well. Seeing a doctor doesnt mean surgery - it may just be something simple like reexamining his diet.
posted by vacapinta at 4:39 PM on August 12, 2006

This happens to me all the time and has for as long as I can remember. This next part is from a doctor: It's affiliated with blood pressure, and it's especially common in tall, thin people. It's also a side effect of SSRIs (Paxil, Prozac, etc.).

Passing out is also common.

I am often a total hypochondriac, and I wouldn't go see a doctor about this unless you're passing out (or almost passing out) frequently, which you're not. You could always bring it up next time you go for something else.
posted by Airhen at 4:55 PM on August 12, 2006

Once, I got sounds too: "B'doinnggg, yowyowyowyowngggg."

That's similar to the sound I hear when this happens. Although, no "doing"--more of a gentle pulsing ringing sound that quickly gets louder, then slowly softer again.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:20 PM on August 12, 2006

There's a reflex, alluded to by bugbread in reference to orthostatic hypotension, where your circulatory system in your periphery constricts when you lose blood pressure up in the head area. If you have any kind of alteration in the ability of blood vessels to constrict, which happens with SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants as well as other blood pressure-affecting meds, then your reflex is slower. It's a pretty small deal, but use your judgement about when it's time to call a doctor.

I lived with it as a result of a tricyclic antidepressant for 14 years. The drug info on side effects says, "if you get dizzy upon standing up, sit down and stand up again more slowly." So, apparently, it's not that big a deal.
posted by aimless at 5:33 PM on August 12, 2006

And I thought I was special. Thanks for everyone who has posted so far. If any of those that have posted are wrong or forgot to mention something, then please add your view!
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:42 PM on August 12, 2006

I have low blood pressure and I too have to be careful standing up and such. My children have low blood pressure as well. They are much taller than I and have had more trouble with it. However my son is at USAFA and has medical exams up one side and down the other (certified to teach soaring) and has passed all his physicals.

Couldn't hurt to mention this to your doc,I would if I were you, but i wouldn't be too freaked out about it.
posted by konolia at 6:37 PM on August 12, 2006

Oh, and it is very important to stay hydrated. Getting dehydrated will give you problems.
posted by konolia at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2006

This nurse says it's orthostatic hypotension. Drink lots of water every day (because dehydration can be part of the problem) and stand up slowly when you move from lying down to standing up (to give your blood vessels a chance to catch up with your movements and constrict enough to keep your blood pressure where it belongs--especially important after the hot shower because the heat has caused your blood vessels to dilate). When you feel it start to happen, sit right back down, if possible elevate your legs above your heart, and try moving again more slowly when the feeling passes. It's nothing to see a doctor about.

When you don't take steps to correct the issue when you first feel the symptoms, it can turn into vasovagal syncope, which basically just means that your blood pressure will drop enough that your brain will briefly not receive enough blood to maintain consciousness and you'll pass out. It sounds like you were on the verge of this at the concert.

Vasovagal syncope is actually a protective mechanism--when you pass out, you go from vertical to horizontal and thus gravity can no longer pull the blood away from your head. Blood returns to your brain and you wake up a few seconds later feeling kind of crappy but otherwise none the worse for wear.

Vasovagal syncope is usually nothing to worry about unless you find that you actually lose consciousness without first experiencing any of the warning signs you've gotten before. Sudden losses of consciousness without any preceding dizziness, loss of balance, etc., can be caused by a cardiac dysrhythmia and definitely warrant a trip to the hospital by ambulance for an EKG immediately after you regain consciousness.
posted by jesourie at 6:52 PM on August 12, 2006

I second orthostatic hypotension, you encounter this a lot in nursing homes and there are certainly meds to combat it. Good luck.
posted by drleary at 8:15 PM on August 12, 2006

Since we have a few doctors/nurses in the house, and this is on-topic, can I drop in a related question: I understand the "sudden-standing" headrush is orthostatic hypotension, but what causes the "pass out while standing up at school assemblies" thing I mentioned above? Notes: the assemblies were long, but not overly long (maybe 30 minutes standing up), warm but not overly hot. Average age of students was about 16. Females passed out slightly more than men.
posted by Bugbread at 6:03 AM on August 13, 2006

I'll nth low blood pressure. It happens to me.

Best thing I've found for it is to make sure you've eaten. An empty stomach makes it much worse.

Also, realise when it's about to happen and sit down before you fall down. I've collected more than one concussion from smashing my head on things on the way down.

On the bright side, I can feel all virtuous eating fried food with lots of salt!
posted by pompomtom at 7:34 AM on August 13, 2006

bugbread, the passing-out-while-standing issue is basically orthostatic hypotension in slow motion.

Usually, when we're moving about, the muscles in our legs contract around the veins and help squeeze the blood back up to the heart. When just standing around, the muscles aren't helping at all.

Add to this issue the general effect of gravity keeping the blood pooled in the lower extremities and the long period of lack of movement contributing to lowered blood pressure and heart rate; when all these things combine, some people don't get enough blood to the brain and they pass out.
posted by jesourie at 8:33 AM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thank you!! That question has been (in a low-level way) on my mind for the last 9 years or so.
posted by Bugbread at 8:59 AM on August 13, 2006

At our school, we attributed the assembly-fainting phenomenon to 'locking your knees.' In retrospect, that was probably just folk medicine, though.
posted by blenderfish at 2:21 PM on August 13, 2006

I have this too, also related to low blood pressure. I've passed out four times (as best I can remember), but each time I've passed out there was some other shock to my system involved. I broke my arm in college, and I remember looking down just in time to see my hand blow up like a melon.

The pain apparently hadn't reached my brain yet, because the last thing I remember thinking before I keeled over was, "Wow, cool!"
posted by astruc at 7:49 PM on August 13, 2006

I get this. And whoa, it's like I lose touch with reality for 45 seconds.
posted by corpse at 7:05 PM on July 2, 2007

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