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Video Game Seizures

Have you noticed the warning label on the video games you've purchased?  They are there for a very real reason.....video games can cause seizures.  REALLY!

Probably the reason that most people do not pay attention to this warning or think it doesn't apply to them or their children is because many of the seizures aren't noticed or identified.  But that doesn't mean they aren't happening. Most people know what to look for in the typical seizure; a person falling on the ground with uncontrollable movements.  But in actuality the minority of seizures that happen are that recognizable.  Visible signs and symptoms differ greatly in each individual person, but the signs will be repeated in the same person and generally have little variance. At Children's Hospital in Boston they are doing EEG on children while the child is playing a video game.  The doctors feel this is the most accurate way of telling if a child is having seizures while participating in gaming.  In one instance they witnessed a young girl, shoulders slumping forward but not loosing her balance and never removing her gaze from the game jerk backwards three times while holding the controller in front of her.  It looked as though she was merely moving with her character.  However, the EEG showed she was having a seizure.  When the seizure was over, her character had died and she was wondering why.  The young girl was not aware of the seizure either only aware that she didn't know why her character died. Because often times children are playing the games alone or facing away from the others in the room that are not participating in the game, no one notices the signs that a seizure is occurring.  Some of these signs are a blank stare, fluttering eyes, a change in facial features to a quiet stare, or small movements not related to playing.  Because the child's consciousness is altered they often are not even aware that something has changed for them.  Most individuals with this type of visual sensitivity (a condition called photosensitive epilepsy) have their first seizure before knowing they need to be careful around the flash, flicker, on-screen patterns, and intense colors in video games.  As exposure keeps growing with increasingly sophisticated computer graphics, more of the population is at risk for this type of seizures. However, with the video game seizures the symptoms post seizure seem to be more telling.  These after effects can last for days.  If you see a pattern of any of these symptoms in your child after playing video games you may want to consider having him/her tested.  Symptoms include but are not limited to moody, poor focus, slower learning ability, poor memory, sleep disturbance (difficulty falling asleep or waking up multiple times in the night), and changes in sensory perception. The difficult part of all of this is the the diagnosis.  It can be very challenging to say the least as many other conditions could illicit the same type of symptoms.  However, by paying attention to the correlation between video game playing and post behavior on multiple occasions you will be able to pick up on a pattern of behavior.  That is a great start.  Usually an EEG will be the diagnosing test done to confirm your suspicions however, as the doctors at The Children's Hospital in Boston found out, if the child is not actually playing a video game at the time of the EEG, there is a good chance the diagnosis will be missed.  Not too many hospitals understand this important component.  So if you are having a child tested it is recommended that you bring a hand held electronic game with lots of bright colors, flashes of light and or patterning with you to the hospital or lab where they will be doing the EEG.

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