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Epilepsia. 1999;40 Suppl 4:70-4.

Video-game epilepsy: a European study.

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Stichting Epilepsie Instellingen Nederland, Heemstede, The Netherlands.


With the introduction of Nintendo video-games on a large scale, reports of children having seizures while playing suggested a possible specific, provocative factor. Although 50% of the photosensitive patients are also sensitive to a 50-Hz television, nonphotosensitive patients with a history of video-game seizures were described as well. The question arises whether this is a mere coincidence, provoked by fatigue and stress, is related to the reaction to the television screen itself, or depends on the movement and color of the pictures of this specific game. A European study was performed in four countries and five sites. All patients were selected because of a history of television, video- or computer-game seizures, with a history of sun-light-, discotheque-, or black and white pattern-evoked seizures, or were already known to be sensitive to intermittent photic stimulation. A total of 387 patients were investigated; 220 (75%) were female and 214 (55%) of those were < 18 years of age. After a routine examination, intermittent photic, pattern, and television stimulation were performed in a standardized way. The patients were investigated with Super Mario World and a standard relatively nonprovocative TV program, both on a 50- and 100-Hz television. Regardless of the distance, Super Mario World proved to be more provocative than the standard program (Wilcoxon, p < 0.05). Eighty-five percent showed epileptiform discharges evoked by intermittent photic stimulation. Forty-five percent of patients were 50-Hz television sensitive and 26% were 100-Hz television sensitive. Pattern sensitivity was found in 28% of patients. The patients, referred because of a television, video- or computer-game seizure, were significantly more sensitive to pattern and to the 50-Hz television (chi square, p < 0.001). More patients are sensitive when playing Super Mario, compared with the standard program (Wilcoxon, p = 0.001) and more sensitive with playing versus viewing (p = 0.016). Of the patients who were referred because of seizures in front of the television, or evoked by a video- or computer game, 14% proved not to be photosensitive. Although no difference in age or use of medication was found, twice as many men were found in this nonphotosensitive group.

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