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147286.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:31 am Reply with quote

Only about 25% of the population sneeze when looking at very bright light, apparently; I would have assumed it was 100%. The condition is called Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-opthalmic Outburst Syndrome, which scientists (those white-coated wags) acronymise as ďACHOOĒ.

ACHOO is an inherited condition. You are likely to sneeze the same number of times, when looking at the sun, as does the parent youíve inherited the syndrome from.

Source: ASDA Good For You magazine, Summer 06.

147291.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:39 am Reply with quote

MatC wrote:
ASDA Good For You magazine, Summer 06.

Excellent source. The Journal of Neurology also published a review of the literature on this in 1993, apparently - but they didn't have a pull out 'n' keep cheesecake recipe, so I know which I prefer.

147293.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:46 am Reply with quote

I would have assumed it was 100%.

Funny, I would have assumed it was around 0%. I've never heard of anyone sneezing when they look at the sun.

ACHOO is an inherited condition.

That could explain it. Very inbred round these parts.

147296.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:50 am Reply with quote

They're all coming out of the woodwork now:
∑ Beckman L, Nordenson I. "Individual differences with respect to the sneezing reflex: an inherited physiological trait in man?" Hum Hered. 1983, 33(6):390-1, PMID 6674114.
∑ Benbow EW: Practical hazards of photic sneezing. Brit. J. Ophthal. 75: 447, 1991.
∑ Breitenbach RA, "The photic sneeze reflex as a risk factor to combat pilots." Mil Med. Dec 1993, 158:806-9, PMID 8108024.
∑ Collie WR, Pagon RA, Hall JG, Shokeir MH. "ACHOO syndrome (autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst syndrome)." Birth Defects Orig Artic Ser. 1978, 14(6B):361-3, PMID 728575.
∑ Collie WR, RA Pagon, JG Hall, MHK Shokeir: ACHOO syndrome (helio-ophthalmic outburst syndrome). Birth Defects Orig. Art. Ser. XIV(6B): 361-363, 1978.
∑ Deshmukh N. "Sneezing response to bright light. Is it a cause of accidents?" The Guthrie Journal. 1995, 64(3):104-5.
∑ Everett HC. "Sneezing in response to light." Neurology. 1964, 14:483-90, PMID 14144120.
∑ Forrester JM. "Sneezing on exposure to bright light as an inherited response." Hum Hered. 1985, 35:113-4, PMID 3988295.
∑ Morris HH 3rd. "ACHOO syndrome: prevalence and inheritance." Clev Clin J Med. 1987, 54:431-3, PMID 3665024.
∑ Peroutka SJ, Peroutka LA. "Autosomal dominant transmission of the 'photic sneeze reflex.'" N Engl J Med. Mar 1 1984, 310(9):599-600, PMID 6694722.
∑ Semes LP, Amos JF, Waterbor JW. "The photic sneeze response: descriptive report of a clinic population." J Am Optom Assoc. June 1995, 66(6):372-7, PMID 7673597.
∑ Whitman BW, Packer RJ. "The photic sneeze reflex: literature review and discussion." Neurology. May 1993, 43(5):868-71, PMID 8492938.
∑ The Beano Annual 1979. "The Sun comes out and Dennis sneezes - While Gnasher does just as he pleases", 15:213-60, PMID 12253120

147301.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:56 am Reply with quote

Photic sneeze reflex (also referred to as sun sneezing, photogenic sneezing, or whimsically called ACHOO, a backronym for Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome) is a medical condition by which people exposed to bright light sneeze. The photic sneeze reflex can also cause one to sneeze many times consecutively. The condition occurs in 17% to 25% of humans, with more common occurrence in Caucasians than other human races. The condition is passed along genetically as an autosomal dominant trait.

The first mention of the phenomenon is probably in the later work attributed to Aristotle (Problems, book XXXIII).

The probable cause is a congenital malfunction in nerve signals in the trigeminal nerve nucleus. The fifth cranial nerve, called the trigeminal nerve, is apparently responsible for sneezes. Research suggests that some people have an association between this nerve and the nerve that transmits visual impulses to the brain. Overstimulation of the optic nerve triggers the trigeminal nerve, and this causes the photic sneeze reflex. Another theory suggests that tears leaking into the nose through the nasolacrimal duct are a cause of the photic sneeze reflex. The speed of the reflex seems to favour the first theory, as it happens much too quickly for tears to be generated and drain into the nose. In addition this sneeze reflex can be brought on by a sudden inhaling of cold air or a strong flavor such as a strong mint gum. This implies an overstimulation of any nerve close to the trigeminal nerve can cause the sneeze reflex.

I must say, I like this question. We could have it as a buzzer round where we put the name up on the screens and if they don't get it we can prompt the answer by having the letters ACHOO turn red.

Stephen's notes should contain a short list of other whimsical scientific acronyms, so he'll have two ways to go - if they don't respond to the subject of sneezing then he can go the acronym route.

147302.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:58 am Reply with quote

Yes, obviously, I was going to list all those other sources, but I was worried about the bandwidth. I've got 'em all here, though, right above where it says "bread, loo rolls, fags, beer."

Given mine and Egg's diametric reactions to this, I really think it might be worth pursuing. It would honestly never have occurred to me that there were people who could look at the sun without sneezing - and clearly the opposite is true for Egg. Definite scope for panel involvement, wouldn't you say?

Now, where did I put that Co-op Members' News piece about neurosurgery ... ?

147303.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:00 am Reply with quote

I like "backronym". There's mileage in that, alone.

Now come on, Flash - let's have you outed. Egg and I have declared ourselves: are you a sneezer or a non?

147307.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:12 am Reply with quote

The OED's earliest citation for the word 'acronym' is in 1943, but they do trace 'initialism' back to 1899.

Acronyms were used in ancient times, it seems - would one count SPQR, or is that just some initials? Anyway, the use of the fish as a Christian symbol has an acronymic root:
fish in Greek is ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthys), which was said to stand for Ιησους Χριστος Θεου Υιος Σωτηρ (Iesous CHristos THeou (h) Uios Soter: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior)

Some acronyms undergo assimilation into ordinary words,.. : for example...: scuba ("Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus") and laser ("Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation").... The term anacronym has been coined as a portmanteau of the words anachronism and acronym to describe acronyms whose original meaning is unknown to most speakers.

(also radar, radio detection and ranging)

The longest acronym, according to the 1965 edition of Acronyms, Initialisms and Abbreviations Dictionary, is ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC, a United States Navy term that stands for "Administrative Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet Subordinate Command."

The world's longest initialism, according to the Guinness Book of World Records is NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT (Нииомтплабопармбетзелбетрабсбомонимонконотдтехстромонт). The 56-letter initialism (54 in Cyrillic) is from the Concise Dictionary of Soviet Terminology and means "The laboratory for shuttering, reinforcement, concrete and ferroconcrete operations for composite-monolithic and monolithic constructions of the Department of the Technology of Building-assembly operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for building mechanization and technical aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the USSR."

Sometimes an acronym's official meaning is crafted to fit an acronym that actually means something that sounds less "official". For instance, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb recently developed in the United States is popularly called the "mother of all bombs" since it is the largest conventional bomb in the world; it is widely assumed that the "mother of all wars" phrase was the true inspiration for the MOAB acronym.

wiki on acronyms

147309.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:15 am Reply with quote

MatC wrote:
are you a sneezer or a non?

I'm a sort of dilettante in this area as in so many: I sneeze sometimes. I can give it up just like that, though.

I thought it was universal, like Mat.

147314.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:22 am Reply with quote

Back to topic: that wiki has a nice list of acronymic spying organisations in films, including:

PAGAN - People Against Goodness and Normalcy from Dragnet

SPECTRE - Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion from James Bond

UNCLE - United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. (Also THRUSH: the meaning of T.H.R.U.S.H. was never revealed on the series; but, in the novelizations it was stated to be "Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity").

UNIT - United Nations Intelligence Taskforce from Dr Who

147315.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:24 am Reply with quote

Donít acronyms have to form a pronounceable word? Nato, Radar, Laser, etc. Isnít a mere set of initials (BBC, ITV, SNP) something else? If so, whatís the latter called?

147318.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:27 am Reply with quote

That's what I was taught Mat, and the other thing is a lowly abbreviation I think.

147319.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:27 am Reply with quote

QI = Quality Indicator, IQ in French, Quadruple Integral and other things; from the acronym finder at

147323.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:31 am Reply with quote

Incidentally, nobody spotted the joke I tagged onto the end of the list of sources. Or if they did, they didn't tell me how amusing I was being. It's not too late, though.

147381.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 7:41 am Reply with quote

I thought it was very funny, Flash, but I assumed it was genuine. I was jealous, because my collection includes very few 1970s annuals.

If Dennis is indeed a sneezer, I think that's worth noting towards a list of famous ACHOO sufferers.


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