How Video Games Can Cause Seizures

Author: Seeker

Video games get a bad rap, but can they cause seizures? Hello Everyone, Crystal your friendly neuroscientist here for DNews to talk videogames and epilepsy. Normally, the activity in your brain is a lot of neurons firing at different times. The activity of these neurons are highly regulated and there are inhibitory systems in place to make sure they don’t fire out of control.

Right now many of your brain regions are active processing this stimulating video, but they are all working independently of each other. In some cases though, a glitch can occur and the activity syncs up. When this happens it can trigger what we know as a seizure. Seizures are often described as a storm of concerted brain activity with all circuits firing in rhythm together. There are many different types of seizures, and not all lead to a diagnosis of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a disorder characterized by a specific form of recurring seizure, a reduced seizure threshold, and it usually requires an electroencephalogram (EEG) or neuroimaging for diagnosis. It might come as a surprise but over the course of a lifetime 4% of our population will experience epilepsy and it is the fourth most common neurological disorder on par with dementia and stroke.

What does this have to do with video games? Well, somehow it seems that certain types of repetitive sensory stimuli can trigger a seizure, and pulsing light, like the flashes from a computer or television screen can fit the bill. About 3 percent of people with epilepsy, and some individuals without, experience photosensitive seizures in response to flashing light. These types of seizures are more common in children and adolescents, the portion of the population for whom video games are the greatest concern. Many people don’t know that they are sensitive to flickering lights until they experience a seizure. Factors that can trigger a photosensitive seizure are 1) how quickly the light flashes, 2) the intensity of the flashing lights, 3) the distance between the viewer and the light source, and 4) the color or wavelength of the light. Any repetitive visual stimuli can trigger seizure, video games are seen as frequent culprits, but the incidence of these seizure events has been on the rise since the advent of television in the 1950s. In the 90’s there was a famous Japanese incident in which over 600 children experienced seizures and were hospitalized after watching a saturday morning Pokemon cartoon, and in the UK a noodle commercial that triggered seizures led to increased regulations for broadcast television.

Here in the united states, seizure warnings are becoming more and more common, but we have yet to enact the regulatory approaches taken by the UK and Japan. It is important to note that isolated seizures caused by a distinct visual triggers are not enough for an epilepsy diagnosis. So to say videogames cause epilepsy is a bit misleading.

How Video Games Can Cause Seizures

But they can cause seizures! And these episodes can occur when they are least expected are not without consequence. Repeated seizure activity can lead to cognitive impairment, behavioral abnormalities and even brain damage! So the next time you sit down at a computer or television screen just know that you might be putting your brain at risk for much more than just a good time. For other new research on how video games affect the brain, check out this recent video from Trace.

Septum pellucidum

The septum pellucidum, is a thin, triangular, vertical double membrane separating the anterior horns of the left and right lateral ventricles of the brain. It runs as a sheet from the…

By: Audiopedia
Neuroscience Basics: GABA Receptors and GABA Drugs, Animation

Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is the primary INHIBITORY neurotransmitter in the mature brain. It REDUCES neuronal activity of target cells through its binding to GABA receptors…

By: Alila Medical Media
Nutrition Q&A - Biliary Atresia Education Day - The Children's Hospital…

When you get the jarred baby foods, do you have a preference of how you fortify them? i do not have a preference. I do have a couple of tricks. When you're getting to the jar of…

By: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
How Does Sleepwalking Work?

(classical music) - Hi I'm Cristen Conger, and this is Brain Stuff. Have you ever seen someone sleepwalking? It's a little bit creepy, right? They might have glassy eyes or…

By: BrainStuff - HowStuffWorks
How Physical Trauma from Seizures can Possibly Cause the Eyelids to Droop…

Thank you for your question. You state in your question that you’ve been dealing with something called “fits” for the past 9 to 10 years. But with medications, you are currently under…

By: Amiya Prasad, M.D.