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Computer overuse produces ‘photosensitive epilepsy’ for youth who ‘live online’

Dave Masko's picture

EUGENE, Ore. – There’s was a strange, nervous unease about a young teen at the Eugene Post Office recently; in turn, her mother shared that “she’s suffering from photosensitive epilepsy,” a form of epilepsy in which seizures are triggered by too much visual stimuli from “overuse of computers and iPhones.”

A Eugene teen, age 15, “seems to have something flickering far back in her eyes,” whiles another doctor told the teen’s mother, Sharon, that “her eyes seem overly sensitive.” In turn, Sharon noted that her daughter had no previous history of epilepsy, but now is diagnosed with Photosensitive Epilepsy (PSE). In turn, “a central Iowa mother woke up over the weekend to find her daughter having a seizure,” reported the ABC News TV affiliate in Pittsburgh in a recent news posting. The report went on to state that “after a trip to the emergency room, the family learned that the cause was most likely from playing video games too long, Des Moines television station KCCI reported.”

Youth experiencing photosensitive epilepsy after too much time online

“The insanely fast cuts of ads, music videos, and even cartoons are incongruent as well as incoherent to a child as well as those of us word-centric adults,” writes Clint, a concerned designer who’s observed the speed that younger worker exhibit online.

“Remember all those children in Japan who were suffering epileptic seizures from the flashing lights of animated spots and shows on TV? Researchers have found such violent sensory inputs actually retard the formation of synapses in the brain,” Clint adds while explaining that’s happening all over America right now with nobody paying much attention.

Clint and others -- to include teachers and instructors in the Eugene area -- point to school work from many middle and high school students that is viewed as “incapable of coherent, logical, complex expression.”

“The students can grasp the nuances of hypertext and recognize patterns in impenetrable lines of codes, as well as make countless calculations a second necessary to manipulate a gaming hand controller. However, linear though, which is the threat that weaves together thoughts on paper and aloud, seems a challenge to these cyber youth. And worst of all, their brains, which seemingly run at terabytes per second, cannot endure wait times in the nanoseconds let alone the quiet hours required for reflection and contemplation,” adds Clint who works with young computer science students who know their way around computers but are “suffering” as human beings who must also speak, present themselves in public and look people in the eye.

Students who spend a lot of time online viewed as having autism symptoms

In fact, Sharon thought her daughter may have “some form of autism because she stopped looking me in the eye. I didn’t realize that we were not really making eye contact until the doctor questioned us. Now, I’m noticing other kids who look down the way autistic children do because they tend to shy away from making eye contact when speaking to you.”

In turn, doctors noted that photosensitive epilepsy is occurring incidents are happening more across America as young children, teens, college students and even adults are prone to seizures after prolonged exposure to video games, TV, the Internet and smart phones.

Children “sensitive” to what’s behind the computer screen, state experts

According to and other government sponsored Internet sites that inform parents and others about safe use of the Internet, it’s known that overuse of computers has produced “seizures in PSE patients.” Also, video games with rapidly changing images and highly regular patterns – that kids view as “fun” to view – are reported to “produce seizures.”

In turn, both federal and state government now has laws requiring “PSE warnings be displayed on packages and in stories where the sale of high-tech computer games is sold without age restriction.

“Kids can buy any type of technology without much problem in Eugene. They take it home and who knows what’s happening to them in their minds,” explains a concerned parent during a recent forum on “safe use of technology.”

For instance, "once was enough for 14-year-old Amy Kopaska. She loves to play video games, the station reported. She spent five hours straight playing a video game over the weekend. Her marathon session led to a frightening situation.”

"This has never happened before. Boy, it scared the life out of me," said Janell Hansen, Kopaska's mother. Hansen woke up early Sunday and heard an awful noise from her daughter's room. She found her daughter thrashing on her bed, in Pittsburgh reported. "I rolled her over. Her eyes were dilated. She was foaming at the mouth, gasping for air. Just breathing very hard," Hansen said.

"The pattern of the lights sets up an abnormal reaction in the brain, and that causes the seizure to happen," said Dr. Joel Waymire, a pediatrician, in the report. Kopaska was playing the game called "True Crime: New York City." There's a car driving through snow and the snowflakes act as a strobe light.

Help for parents wanting to prevent seizures after kids spend too much online time

According to the “World Wide Web Consortium,” that’s offering web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) – that the U.S. and other countries have adopted – the consortium “specifies that content on the Internet should not flash more than three times in any one second period, unless the flashing is small enough or low contrast enough.”

Still, computer technology experts here in Eugene say “that’s guidelines but who knows what’s happening behind that screen you’re staring at all day? What does it do to your brain,” said one student who’s musing over a scholarly paper on the subject.

Moreover, the federal guidelines for how computers, video games and other cyber and digital technology operate in the U.S., points to “websites provided by federal agencies that are governed by section 508 in the Rehabilitation Act.” “What this means is the government tried to get a handle on what goes into web sites, but, again, who really knows,” the Eugene computer science student added.

In turn, the U.S. Rehabilitation Act states that web site “pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and less than 55 Hz.”

However, it’s noted that the “508 regulations are currently being updated,” as of Sept. 10, 2011.

Also, computer science students here in Eugene say they “sometimes use” a “free tool” for evaluating web content for flashing called the “Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT).” They say the PEAT is available from the “Trace R&D Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” And, of course, computer tech manufactures do not freely inform parents of the PEAT, say experts.

British health and safety practices focus tech-triggered seizures in youth

“Video games are becoming increasingly popular. Particularly after the launch of various ‘sexy’ new consoles and fast, slick games from industry giants like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. Contradicting the established image of the nerdy gamer in a T-shirt and jam-jar glasses, new consoles have made it seem cool to be a gamer again. In the last decade alone, over 335 million computer and video games were sold in the UK,” stated a recent report after a European Journal story in Brussels point to the British government push to root out the cause of a “rise in tech-triggered seizures in youth.”

Epilepsy Action is the largest member-led epilepsy organization in Britain, acting as the voice for the UK's estimated 456,000 people with epilepsy, as well as their friends, families, careers, health professionals and the many other people on whose lives the condition has an impact.

“Gaye Herford is a mother son was one of many youngsters who have been seduced by the bright colors and smart graphics of modern video games. Although Gaye could not have realized at the time, he was also one of the few youngsters that would experience a negative reaction to them,” stated

“This was last year,” explains Gaye. “My youngest son doesn’t play a lot of computer games, but for his birthday I bought him a Nintendo DS [a popular handheld games console] and a particular computer game he’d had his eye on. He was very excited to play it. He turned the game on and moments later he had a seizure.

“When I ran to him, his head was twitching to the left. The left side of his face and his left arm were also twitching. It was obviously a partial seizure. When it passed he was tired and confused. We were stunned; it was quite frightening. I had seen a seizure before, but never in my own child,” reported

“Most video games carry some warning somewhere on their packaging that refers to epilepsy,” reported “These warnings are a voluntary measure by video games manufacturers to try and keep gamers safe. These warnings are all very well – provided you know that you have PSE. Unfortunately – as in the case of Gaye’s son – not everybody does.”

Gaye adds: “Three quarters of people – 76 per cent – won’t know that they have PSE until something triggers a seizure.”

Computers viewed as safe, while parents expose children to digital screens 24/7 to keep them quiet

While computer science students here in Eugene view computers and video games for the young as “helping to keep the troublesome youth comfortably numb,” too much tech is no longer a joke.

For example, it was back on Dec. 17, 1997 that CNN broke a shocking story from Tokyo that stated how “bright flashing lights of a popular TV cartoon became a serious matter Tuesday evening, when they triggered seizures in hundreds of Japanese children. In a national survey, the Tokyo fire department found that at least 618 children had suffered convulsions, vomiting, irritated eyes, and other symptoms after watching ‘Pokémon.’ Japanese television network NHK reported that 111 people were hospitalized.

"We are shocked to hear many children were taken to hospitals," TV Tokyo spokesman Hiroshi Uramato said. "We will investigate thoroughly, and consult with experts."

The show, based on characters from Nintendo's popular "Pocket Monsters" video game, is Japan's most highly-rated program in its 6:30 p.m. time slot. The episode that triggered seizures in children were called "Computer Warrior Porigon," stated the CNN report, and featured “characters fighting each other inside a computer.”

CNN also noted that local news reports in Japan “blamed a scene in the cartoon that featured an exploding "vaccine bomb" set off to destroy a computer virus, followed by five seconds of flashing red light in the eyes of ‘Pikachu,’ a rat-like creature that is the show's most popular character.”

Also, CNN reported that “some other children were stricken later, when watching excerpts from the scene in TV news reports on the earlier victims. Dr. Yukio Fukuyama, a juvenile epilepsy expert, said that ‘television epilepsy’ can be triggered by flashing, colorful lights. Though the phenomenon was observed before television, photosensitive epilepsy, as it is also called, has become far more common as TV has spread. The same symptoms have also been observed in children playing video games and staying online for long periods of time.”

Image source of “Denno Senshi Porygon,” a computer and TV episode that was blamed for causing “multiple seizures” for children in Japan. Later it was disclosed that many children worldwide now suffering from “Photosensitive epilepsy (PSE)” that’s a form of epilepsy in which seizures are triggered by visual stimuli that form patterns in time or space, such as flashing lights, bold, regular patterns and moving patterns.” Wikipedia

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