Pocket Monster incident and low luminance visual stimuli: Special reference to deep red flicker stimulation


Takeo Takahashi, Yaotome Clinic,2–12–2 Yaotome, Izumi-ku Sendai,981–3112, Japan. Email: <tt@dd.iij4u.or.jp>


On the evening of 16 December 1997 approximately 700 people around the nation (mostly children) were rushed to hospitals and treated for seizure symptoms. The youngsters had been watching the vastly popular TV animated cartoon series Pocket Monsters (Pokemon). We designated those individuals as a main group, who presumably had simultaneous occurrence of visually induced seizures. Follow-up studies revealed that5–10.4% of Pokemon viewers had various minor symptoms not requiring hospital treatment. We designated those as a subgroup. Due to an official report regarding the problematic TV scene as a low luminance, 12 Hz alternating red/blue stimulus, we attempted an accounting of the Pokemon incident, with regard to the main group in particular, on the basis of electroencephalographic activation by use of low luminance 15 Hz deep red flicker stimulation. In order to explain the entire Pokemon incident, including symptoms experienced by individuals of the subgroup, we considered the possibility that some healthy youngsters may have latent photosensitivity and we thought that such a sensitivity might be disclosed by use of low luminance deep red nicker stimulation which is more provocative of photoparoxysmal response than ordinary high luminance stroboscopic intermittent photic stimulation. For prevention of visually induced seizures by TV viewing, we stress that care should be taken to test not only red nicker but also flickering geometric pattern stimuli.