Sunflower syndrome: a poorly understood photosensitive epilepsy

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2021 Mar;63(3):259-262. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.14723. Epub 2020 Oct 31.


Sunflower syndrome is a rare photosensitive epilepsy which has received little attention in recent medical literature. The historical cases documenting the epilepsy's stereotyped handwaving motion in front of light characterized the behavior as self-inducing seizures via mimic of stroboscopic effect. However, the relationship between handwaving episodes and attendant generalized electroencephalogram abnormalities, and an appreciation of the compulsive attraction the sun and other light sources hold for these patients, suggest the handwaving motion may be a part of the seizure rather than a mechanism of self-induction. The lack of awareness of Sunflower syndrome often leads to misdiagnosis. The seizures are often refractory to traditional anticonvulsant medication, and patients resort to behavioral intervention, such as hats and sunglasses, to reduce handwaving episodes. Further study is required to determine the syndrome's natural history and to identify more effective treatment options. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: Sunflower syndrome is a rare condition that is often misdiagnosed. Awareness of the clinical and electroencephalogram characteristics of Sunflower syndromemay reduce the prevalence of misdiagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation / adverse effects*
  • Syndrome


  • Anticonvulsants