- NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) -- Italian scientists have figured out how an episode of the television
cartoon Pokemon may have caused epileptic seizures in 685 Japanese children
- The problem was caused by an abnormal brain response
in these children to flashing lights featured in the cartoon, signaling
a brain disorder known as photosensitive epilepsy. Dr. Vittorio Porciatti
of the Institute of Neurophysiology in Pisa and colleagues say that a mechanism
in the brain that controls the reaction to visual information ``is defective
or absent in'' people with photosensitive epilepsy.
- It has been known for many years that strobe lights or
flashing lights may cause seizures in people with this type of epilepsy,
but it was unclear how the lights induced this response. In an attempt
to understand that process, Porciatti and colleagues exposed eleven patients
with photosensitive epilepsy to different patterns of flashing lights and
studied the brainwaves of these patients in response to the lights.
- Compared with people who did not have the disorder, photosensitive
epileptics had abnormal brain activity in response to slow-flashing lights
with high contrast. These are the type of lights ``common in TV images
and in video games, and may be important in triggering the abnormal (brain)
response underlying visually induced epileptic seizures,'' the researchers
write in the March issue of Nature Neuroscience.
- The researchers note that while the disorder is not very
common, affecting between 0.5 - 0.8% of children between the ages of 4
- 14, they suspect that photosensitive epilepsy ``is increasing as a result
of the proliferation of television display units and video games, which
may act as triggers.'' SOURCE: Nature Neuroscience 2000;3:259-263.
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