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Nat Neurosci. 2000 Mar;3(3):259-63.

Lack of cortical contrast gain control in human photosensitive epilepsy.

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  • 1Institute of Neurophysiology, Area Ricerca CNR, 1 via Alfieri, 56100 Pisa, Italy.


Television and video games may be powerful triggers for visually induced epileptic seizures. To better understand the triggering elements of visual stimuli and cortical mechanisms of hyperexcitability, we examined eleven patients with idiopathic photosensitive epilepsy by recording visually evoked potentials (VEPs) in response to temporally modulated patterns of different contrast. For stimuli of low-medium, but not high, temporal frequency, the contrast dependence of VEP amplitude and latency is remarkably abnormal for luminance contrast (black-white), but not so for chromatic contrast (equiluminant red-green) stimuli. We conclude that cortical mechanisms of contrast gain control for pattern stimuli of relatively low temporal frequency and high luminance contrast are lacking or severely impaired in photosensitive subjects.

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