Link between seizures, video games not an urban myth

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by By JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on July 6, 2009 at 5:30 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 29 at 10:19 AM

Video: Some video games linked to seizures

It's a fun, fast fusion of lights and rock-n-roll, but lately, bloggers have begun buzzing about a potentially grave side of the video game Guitar Hero.

"My 16-year old son just had a seizure" writes one. "Warning" says another.

"It's the change of scenery, the change in color," said Dr. Angel Hernandez, epilepsy specialist. "How quickly the movements are made in the video games. What we think is happening is the faster the activity is, the higher the risk of them having a seizure."

Dr. Angel Hernandez says the phenomenon isn't unique to Guitar Hero.

In 1997, more than 600 Japanese children suffered convulsions after watching the bright, flashing lights of Pokemon. Then, it was considered urban legend. Not now.

Hernandez says photosensitive epilepsy can be a one-time occurrence or a regular response to flickering lights. The Epilepsy Foundation estimates about a 100,000 children might be susceptible and not know it.

To reduce the risk, the foundation recommends playing in a well-lit room, to reduce the contrast from the screen, sitting several feet away from the monitor, limiting playing to 30-minutes and taking regular breaks.

"One of the things I tell the families to do is to, if your child is very tired or they've been up late, not to play video games the next day," said Hernandez.

Photosensitive epilepsy is not limited to video games. Anything that produces bright flashing lights can be a trigger, but experts say kids can grow out of it.

Some games now have warnings when you turn them on. In New York, a pending bill would require retailers to post alerts about the potential of video game-induced seizures.

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